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Spring Out

Fibres of titin protein 'manufactured' by bacteria have potential in tissue engineering and suturing

19 September 2021

Spring Out

In among the flexing fibres inside our muscles, a protein called titin acts like a tiny spring. It’s attracting attention from bioengineers looking to use muscle-like elastic materials outside the body. But this biomimicry requires creative thinking – to make this titin fibre (viewed under a scanning transmission electron microscope) researchers called on the help of bacteria. First they prepared modified DNA 'instructions' for building a chain of titin molecules, and transferred them into bacterial cells. The eager bacteria set to work producing short titin chains and, with a little help, chemically linked them together. The resulting titin polymer is strong and tough but also biodegradable, raising hopes for using in it surgical sutures or tissue engineering. Aside from these important applications, pulling molecular designs out of mammalian cells gives researchers another way to explore how they might work in real life.

Written by John Ankers

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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