Toxins, viruses, and other biological agents are priority threats to national defense because they are cheap and easily deliverable vectors of illness and death. There are limited .preventative medicines and treatments for specific contaminants. The subgroup goal is to develop widely applicable treatments through engineering materials that mimic by the body’s natural defense. Two systems that we have taken inspiration from are the selective filtering of the nuclear membrane and the decoy and clearance of mucus. We apply molecular level rational design on biological materials to develop prototype artificially engineered protein-based polymers that mimic biological functions. These proteins will ideally be biocompatible, biodegradable, and non-toxic polymer materials that can be easily removed from the body via natural means, such as macrophages. To create these systems with maximized performance, we are currently investigating how quickly various types of selective biological agents can be removed by materials, the relationship between physicochemical properties of nuclear membrane mimetic materials and transport properties of target molecules, and the effects of polymer molecular structure on the viscoelastic properties of mucus mimetic materials.
We acknowledge support from Defense Threat Reduction Agency (HDTRA1-13-1-0038).
- Artificially Engineered Protein Hydrogels Adapted From the Nucleoporin Nsp1 for Selective Biomolecular Transport. M. Kim, W.G. Chen, M.J. Glassman, J.-W. Kang, K. Ribbeck, and B.D. Olsen. Advanced Materials 2015, 27, 4207-4212.