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Biotechnol Adv. 2002 Dec;20(5-6):321-39.

Emerging biological materials through molecular self-assembly.

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Center for Biomedical Engineering 56-341, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 77 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139-4307, USA.


Understanding of new materials at the molecular level has become increasingly critical for a new generation of nanomaterials for nanotechnology, namely, the design, synthesis and fabrication of nanodevices at the molecular scale. New technology through molecular self-assembly as a fabrication tool will become tremendously important in the coming decades. Basic engineering principles for microfabrication can be learned by understanding the molecular self-assembly phenomena. Self-assembly phenomenon is ubiquitous in nature. The key elements in molecular self-assembly are chemical complementarity and structural compatibility through noncovalent interactions. We have defined the path to understand these principles. Numerous self-assembling systems have been developed ranging from models to the study of protein folding and protein conformational diseases, to molecular electronics, surface engineering, and nanotechnology. Several distinctive types of self-assembling peptide systems have been developed. Type I, "molecular Lego" forms a hydrogel scaffold for tissue engineering; Type II, "molecular switch" as a molecular actuator; Type III, "molecular hook" and "molecular velcro" for surface engineering; Type IV, peptide nanotubes and nanovesicles, or "molecular capsule" for protein and gene deliveries and Type V, "molecular cavity" for biomineralization. These self-assembling peptide systems are simple, versatile and easy to produce. These self-assembly systems represent a significant advance in the molecular engineering for diverse technological innovations.

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