The team from Nanyang Technological University and the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) used a new interdisciplinary approach integrating RNA sequencing and proteomics with material science. This process allows scientists to speed up the discovery and development of new and better biomaterials within months instead of years.
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Scientists from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and Singapore's Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) have developed new biomaterials, such as one from squid's sucker ring teeth that is harder, more rigid and more wear-resistant than conventional plastics.
This breakthrough is made possible by the use of a new interdisciplinary approach which integrates RNA sequencing and proteomics - the study of functions, structures and the interactions of proteins - with material science.
Published this week in Nature Biotechnology, the world's top international scientific journal in the field, this ground-breaking work now allows scientists to speed up the discovery and development of new and better biomaterials within months instead of years.
The squid sucker ring teeth is just one of the three biomaterials that NTU and A*STAR scientists have studied in the past year. The other two discoveries include sticky underwater glue which is derived from mussels and an extremely elastic material from sea snails' egg capsules.
The squid-inspired biomaterial can be made into biocompatible films for food and drug packaging, and as cost-effective encapsulants to protect expensive drugs against heat and impact during transportation and storage. Such new biomaterials can be used for a wide number of applications, even as parts for organ implants, as they are versatile and easily processed into different shapes and forms.
These new biomaterials are superior, if not comparable with those produced from petroleum-based polymers, yet are made using eco-friendly processes without using harsh chemicals. This study further accelerates the understanding of nature's design and aims to find new materials for the future which are more sustainable than today's plastics.
NTU Assistant Professor Ali Miserez, who co-led this research with his colleague Dr Paul Guerette and A*STAR scientist Dr Shawn Hoon, said the new approach of integrating proteomics and material science holds great potential for industry and researchers.
"Nature has many secrets which we have yet to uncover. This new biomaterial made from squid's sucker ring teeth - which are a set of razor sharp teeth found on squid tentacles used to latch on to prey - can retain its property when wet. It could be a new solution to wear-resistant human implants that are exposed to water on a continuous basis. By comparison, silk - which is similar to the material we discovered in terms of molecular structure - is exceptionally strong when dry, but becomes weak when exposed to water," Asst Prof Miserez said.
"The potential of finding new biomaterials in such a short time is immense. By understanding the structure of the protein in the sucker rings, we were able to reproduce the protein artificially and engineer materials with impressive rigidity, hardness and wear-resistance. This will lead to new types of sustainable bio-materials made from proteins."