Bridging the Gap Between Technology and Physiology with Innovative Peptides
Biomedical implants are a cornerstone to many therapies, but occasionally lack compatibility with biological systems. Image Source: Flickr User: Bhakua
What if your body could talk to machines, and vice versa? Well, it turns out there is a way to accomplish this, and it may help solve a common problem seen with surgical implants. The chemical nature of current implants and devices often struggle to integrate with the organic nature of the human body. These two systems struggle to communicate with one another, leading to overheating wires, scarring and struggling and/or rejection of implanted components. A system that can bridge that communication gap will be indispensable moving forward.
Recently, researchers published a paper on peptides (primarily GrBP5) that may cross the divide. These peptides allow tissue to communicate with the biomedical device and vice-versa. 1 Allowing two-way communication between technology and tissue will not only allow for current bioelectronics to function more efficiently, but also opens the door to a host of potential devices that may replace and better regulate poorly functioning systems in the body. With comprehensive computer modeling software to keep track of all these new possibilities, the sky’s the limit.
Current Challenges with Bioelectronics
Electronics being used in conjunction with the body is nothing new, and we’ve come a very long way from Luigi Galvani’s experiments involving the application of electric current to frogs legs. Some commonly recognized biomedical devices are pacemakers, which ensure a regular heartbeat, and cochlear implants, which effectively “replace” the damaged portions of the inner ear. These two particular implants have been very effective, but many implants in other areas of the body, such as the brain and spinal cord, are proving to be quite a bit more difficult. There are a number of challenging that are sitting at the forefront of moving forward:2
- Stiff Implanted Materials – Wires and metal plates are generally incompatible with a biological system, such as the human body. They often cause scarring and inflammation and the body may also choose to reject these implants. 3
There is an imminent needs to explore and generate comprehensive computer models of softer materials to replace these hard devices.
- Device and Material Bioincompatibility – Beyond mere stiffness, there are a number of materials that may unknowingly interfere with tissue integrity, kill cells or heat substantially. As this is a newer frontier of medical research, adequate in silico testing with innovative software with the ability to investigate and model small compatibility modifications is paramount to reducing R&D time.
- Fabrication – Moving materials down to the micro scale while maintaining material integrity is equally as challenging as ensuring biological stability. As researchers continue to learn more about the many facets of scaling down this technology, material modeling and analysis will be incredibly important. It’s possible that researchers already have an adequate material in their arsenal, and using modern lab software to reanalyze its potential will be crucial.
Self-Assembled Electronic Network
One of the great things about the previously mentioned peptide system, is that it is inspired by biology. In having inherent, pseudo-endogenous qualities, a number of the aforementioned issues can be entirely avoided. By using a “bottom-up” approach, researchers can design materials based on biology. In this case, the peptides that have been selected, after thorough modelling, and self-assemble themselves into peptide nanowires on two-dimensional nanosheets, single-layer graphene and MoS2.4
This means that within the next few years they may be able to apply this to burgeoning biomedical implant investigations to ensure that new devices aren’t rejected and engage in two-way conversations. Within a couple of mutations of GrBP5, it altered the electrical conductivity of a device it was being used in conjunction with, and was then further altered to convert a chemical signal to an optical signal.
There have been a number of notable publications regarding self-assembled peptides structures in the last few years. It’s amazing how research is leading to a place where in the foreseeable future humanity will have harnessed a number of biological processes that have only been in the investigators purview for a couple of years. With BIOVIA Biologics Discovery, comprehensive models can be created to allow researchers to better predict what will work saving both time and money. Materials studio can help investigators to eliminate repetitive testing by automating modelling tasks. For example, it could model the full possibilities of materials you may have already made for previous investigations. There is a fantastic world of technology out there to explore, and the gap between technology and biology is slowly closing. Ensure that your lab is able to keep up with new trends in materials development. Please contact us today to learn more about how our software options can support the efforts of your lab.
- “New protein bridges chemical divide for ‘seamless’ bioelectronics devices,” October 3, 2016, https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/10/161003182510.htm ↩
- “A Framework for Bioelectronics Discovery and Innovation,” February 2009, https://www.nist.gov/sites/default/files/documents/pml/div683/
- “Bioelectronics: Soft implants for long-term use,” February 20, 2015, http://www.nature.com/nmat/journal/v14/n3/full/nmat4235.html ↩
- “Bioelectronic interfaces by spontaneously organized peptides on 2D atomic single layer materials,” September 22, 2016, http://www.nature.com/articles/srep33778#methods ↩