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Published on : Nov 15, 2018

A team of scientists from the Tokyo Institute of Technology has devised an innovative way of constructing protein nanotubes. The development could help achieve further success in developing nano-sized drug carriers, drug delivery systems, and artificial enzymes for a vast set of biotechnological and biomedical applications.

Tailor-made, well-ordered protein nanostructures are of intense interest in the field of research as these structures could be utilized for developing extremely powerful and specific catalysts, vaccine delivery systems, and a variety of highly useful biomaterials. So far, researchers have faced vast challenges when developing protein structures in aqueous solution owing to the disorganized manner in which proteins freely interact with each other under various conditions such as temperature and pH.

The new method overcomes these issues with the help of protein crystals, which work as a favorable scaffold for proteins. Protein crystals allow easy self-assembly of proteins into the preferred structure. The protein crystal system, consisting ordered organization of necessary structures, allows for easy control of chemical interactions of importance. Cross-linking is used to stabilize the assembly structure, which is not possible to achieve from protein cross-linking in an aqueous solution.

For constructing the nanotubes, the researchers a naturally occurring protein with high stability, called RubisCO, as the building block. The protein could remain in shape owing to its high stability. It was also found in the study that the protein nanotubes made in this manner could preserve their enzymatic ability. As the nanotube provides the necessary setting for the collection of exogenous molecules, it can be used as a promising candidate for delivery of a variety of pharmaceutical products at specific sites in the body.