The study shows how peptides and proteins can be used to create materials that exhibit dynamic behaviors found in biological tissues like growth and healing.
The method uses solutions of peptide and protein molecules that self-assemble to form a dynamic tissue at the point at which they meet. As the material assembles itself it can be easily guided to grow into complex shapes.
This technique could lead to the engineering of tissues like veins, arteries, or even the blood-brain barrier, which would permit scientists to study diseases such as Alzheimer's with a high level of similarity to the real tissue, which is currently impossible.
The method could also contribute to the creation of better implants, complex tissues, or more effective drug screening methods.
Alvaro Mata, Director of the Institute of Bioengineering at QMUL and lead author of the paper, said: "What is most exciting about this discovery is the possibility for us to use peptides and proteins as building-blocks of materials with the capacity to controllably grow or change shape, solely by self-assembly."
The study was published online on 28 Monday September in the journal Nature Chemistry.