Friday, January 8, 2021

Chemists invent shape-shifting nanomaterial with biomedical potential

Electron micrographs give a detailed view of the new nanomaterial. Arrows indicate layers that form in the tubes, leading to the hypothesis that the sheets form tubes by scrolling in at the corners.

Chemists have developed a nanomaterial that they can trigger to shape shift — from flat sheets to tubes and back to sheets again — in a controllable fashion. The Journal of the American Chemical Society published a description of the nanomaterial, which was developed at Emory University and holds potential for a range of biomedical applications, from controlled-release drug delivery to tissue engineering. 

The nanomaterial, which in sheet form is 10,000 times thinner than the width of a human hair, is made of synthetic collagen. Naturally occurring collagen is the most abundant protein in humans, making the new material intrinsically biocompatible. 

“No one has previously made collagen with the shape-shifting properties of our nanomaterial,” says Vincent Conticello, senior author of the finding and Emory professor of biomolecular chemistry. “We can convert it from sheets to tubes and back simply by varying the pH, or acid concentration, in its environment.” 

The Emory Office of Technology Transfer has applied for a provisional patent for the nanomaterial.


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