Smart nanostructures inspired by proteins may improve cell function
Proteins are the workhorses of cells. These amino acid chains twist themselves into complex 3D structures that change dynamically to expose or hide binding sites or otherwise alter their functionality depending on cellular needs. They respond to numerous stimuli and are perhaps the ultimate smart material. Endowing synthetic, bioactive, self-assembled nanoarchitectures with this dynamic ability to reconfigure themselves will allow for enhanced control and tuning of their properties and thus be of value to various applications. The EU-funded SENSE project has set out to do just that, engineering stimuli-responsive self-assembled nanostructures, starting from building blocks based on small chains of amino acids. The goal is to integrate them into living cells to control cellular behaviours, using them as both bioactive scaffolds and smart delivery vehicles for a variety of agents.
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