- Formation of ice
crystals at lower temperatures have been a constant hinderance to both clinical and industrial
- These ice
crystals cause damage to materials as simple as ice creams to complex
organs used for transplantation.
- Researchers have
developed a synthetic form of anti freeze proteins that are naturally
produced by species living in freezing temperatures.
The fact, that something as small as ice, can bring an
airplane down is indeed petrifying. Formation of ice crystals on airplane wings, can ultimately lead to loss of control
leading to plane crashes. Not only can it bring an airplane down, it can also alter the creamy ice cream we
love to eat, into icy flaky lumps. Inspired by the antifreeze proteins that are
naturally found in animals like the arctic fish, to protect itself from the
freezing, scientists have developed a synthetic iron mimic that can be used to
prevent everyday ice damage. The study is published in the Journal of the
American Chemical Society.
How does ice cause damage?
While ice has various advantages in day-to-day life, it is
not favorable to have ice formation on airplane wings, turbines, ice cream and
creams loose their creamy texture when stored for long in cold
temperatures due to ice crystal formation.
crystal deposition on wind turbines lower the performance rate.
crystals are a major hinderance in frozen food processing.
crystal formation on airplane wings obstruct wind flow and may result in
loss of control of airplanes.
organs and tissues used for transplantation and other therapeutic purposes have a
threat of ice crystal formation when stored for longer periods of time,
which may result in cell death.
Animals living in freezing temperatures produce antifreeze
that protect them from ice crystal formation.
‘Metallohelices, a synthetic anti freeze protein mimic shows ice recrystallization inhibition activity.’
What do anti freeze proteins do?
Antifreeze proteins are molecules that control ice formation
and growth. They do not stop but slow the growth of ice crystals.Ice crystals
have an unusual property called recrystallizing. When water freezes, many small
crystals form, but some of these grow larger and larger in size. Anti freeze
proteins bind to surfaces of the small crystals and minimize this
recrystallization effect. Anti freeze proteins are also famous for their
ability to lower the freezing point of water to prevent clotting of blood at
sub zero temperatures.
However, naturally occurring antifreeze proteins are
expensive and potentially immunogenic and toxic to the cells. This makes
synthetic mimics appealing for clinical application. But due to lack of
understanding the antifreeze protein mechanism, designing mimics is
Synthetic mimics of anti freeze proteins:
There are only a a handful of synthetic materials that can
reproduce the ice recrystallization inhibition property of anti freeze
proteins. The research team at Warwick University have identified
metallohelices with ice recrystallization inhibition activity which may have
potential applications in a wide variety of fields.
"The versatile synthetic and adaptable nature of these
compounds will let us fine-tune the structure to both understand the ice/water
interface and develop new inhibitors for (bio)technological applications,"
explains lead researcher, Professor Matthew Gibson.
- Mitchell, D. E., Clarkson, G., Fox, D. J., Vipond, R. A., Scott, P., & Gibson, M. I. (2017). Antifreeze Protein Mimetic Metallohelices with Potent Ice Recrystallization Inhibition Activity. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 139(29), 9835-9838. doi:10.1021/jacs.7b05822
- Antifreeze Proteins - (http://pdb101.rcsb.org/motm/120)