PHILADELPHIA — Bioengineers are using molecules and individual atoms as building blocks to make nanoscale structures inspired by natural viruses. An interdisciplinary team of researchers at the University of Pennsylvania has now developed a method of computationally selecting the best of these blocks, drawing ideas from viral proteins in making biological structures. The team was led by postdoctoral fellow Gevorg Grigoryan, PhD and professor William DeGrado, PhD, of the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics in Penn's Perelman School of Medicine, as well as graduate student Yong Ho Kim of the Department of Chemistry in Penn's School of Arts and Sciences. Their colleagues also included members of the Department of Physics and Astronomy in SAS. Their research was published in the journal Science. The team set out to design proteins that could wrap around single-walled carbon nanotubes. Consisting of a cylindrical pattern of carbon atoms tens of thousands of times thinner than a human hair, nanotubes are enticing to nanoengineers as they are extraordinarily strong and could be useful as platform for other nano-structures. "We wanted to achieve a specific geometric pattern of the atoms that these proteins are composed of on the surface of the nanotube," Grigoryan said. "If you know the underlying atomic lattice, it means that you know how to further build around it, how to attach things to it. It's like scaffolding for future building." For full news release and related image, please see: http://www.upenn.edu/pennnews/news/penn-researchers-help-nanoscale-engineers-choose-self-assembling-proteins
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