Insect Biomaterial Models

resilin

The joint of the jumping leg of the flea contains resilin. Inset: Reslin fluoresces blue

Insects have many unique proteins with potentially useful characteristics. One such protein, resilin, is notable for its reversible extensibility (ability to stretch and return to form) without wear, tear or deformation of millions of cycles. Resilin has been proposed for a variety of uses including the treatment of human speech disorders by repairing the vocal folds. This idea, first proposed over a decade ago has been explored. It turns out that resilin has some desirable properties but is not good enough.

Many natural products are well adapted to their use in the organism that produces them. They may be less well adapted to unintended uses. In cases where natural is not good enough, it may be possible to manufacture synthetic materials that are a better match to the use. The insect protein serves as a model for new synthetics with similar properties.  In the case of vocal chord repair, biomimetic resilin-like-polypeptides (RLPs) are being synthesized. The synthetic RLPs have a wider range of properties and can better match the vibrational qualities needed for a better vocal chord replacement.  The idea of a decade ago is still in the works.  It is not unusual for good ideas to take one or more decades to come to fruition.

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
This entry was posted in Biomaterials, by jjneal. Bookmark the permalink.

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