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Curr Opin Chem Biol. 1999 Dec;3(6):681-7.

Bioinspired polymeric materials: in-between proteins and plastics.

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  • 1Department of Chemical Engineering, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL 60208, USA.


Chemical and biological researchers are making rapid progress in the design and synthesis of non-natural oligomers and polymers that emulate the properties of natural proteins. Whereas molecular biologists are exploring biosynthetic routes to non-natural proteins with controlled material properties, synthetic polymer chemists are developing bioinspired materials with well-defined chemical and physical properties that function or self-organize according to defined molecular architectures. Bioorganic chemists, on the other hand, are developing several new classes of non-natural oligomers that are bridging the gap between molecular biology and polymer chemistry. These synthetic oligomers have both sidechain and length specificity, and, in some cases, demonstrate capability for folding, self-assembly, and specific biorecognition. Continued active exploration of diverse backbone and sidechain chemistries and connectivities in bioinspired oligomers will offer the potential for self-organized materials with greater chemical diversity and biostability than natural peptides. Taken together, advances in molecular bioengineering, polymer chemistry, and bioorganic chemistry are converging towards the creation of useful bioinspired materials with defined molecular properties.

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