University of Manchester researchers, working with colleagues in Australia and the United States, used state-of-the-art techniques to reveal the structure of tropoelastin, the main component of elastin.
Elastin allows tissues in humans and other mammals to stretch, for example when the lungs expand and contract for respiration or when arteries widen and narrow over the course of a billion heart beats.
The study, published in the science journal PNAS (March issue), revealed how evolution has triumphed where engineering has so far failed by generating a molecule with near-perfect elasticity that will last a lifetime.
"All mammals rely on elastin to provide their tissues with the ability to stretch and then return to their original shape," said researcher Dr Clair Baldock, from the University of Manchester's Wellcome Trust Centre for Cell Matrix Research. "This high level of physical performance demanded of elastin vastly exceeds and indeed outlasts all human-made elastics.
"It is the co-ordinated assembly of many tropoelastins into elastin that gives tissues their stretchy properties and this exquisite assembly helps to generate elastic tissues as diverse as artery, lung and skin.
"We discovered that tropoelastin is a curved, spring-like molecule with a 'foot' region to facilitate attachment to cells. Stretching and relaxing experiments showed that the molecule had the extraordinary capacity to extend to eight-times its initial length and can then return to its original shape with no loss of energy, making it a near-perfect spring."
She added: "Elastics are used in applications as diverse as clothing, vehicles, tissue engineering and even space travel, so understanding how the structure of tropoelastin creates its exceptional elastic properties will hopefully enable the development of synthetic 'elastin-like' polymers with potentially wide-ranging applications and benefits."
Initiator and research project leader Tony Weiss, Professor in the School of Molecular Bioscience, The University of Sydney, added: "Tropoelastin is a tiny protein 'nanospring' in the human body. Our bodies assemble these nanosprings to put elasticity into tissues like skin, blood vessels and lung.
"Our finding is the result of more than a decade of international collaboration. Our scientific teamwork spans Australia, the UK, USA and Europe. Tropoelastin's extraordinary capacity to extend to eight-times its initial length and then return to its original shape, with no loss of energy, is nature showing us how to make an ideal nanospring."
Notes for editors:
A copy of the paper, 'Shape of tropoelastin, the highly-extensible protein that controls human tissue elasticity,' is available on request.
Aeron Haworth | EurekAlert!
Drone vs. truck deliveries: Which create less carbon pollution?
31.05.2017 | University of Washington
New study: How does Europe become a leading player for software and IT services?
03.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für System- und Innovationsforschung (ISI)
An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.
Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...
Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.
Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...
Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.
As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...
Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.
With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...
Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine
Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...
19.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
27.06.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering
27.06.2017 | Information Technology
27.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy