21 August 2012
The researchers swapped the coating of water on myoglobin proteins - which normally carry oxygen to muscle and give raw meat its red colour - with a synthetic polymer that acts as a surfactant, effectively turning the proteins into a viscous liquid with the consistency of thick treacle. Then they used a neutron-scattering technique to observe how well the proteins could move, a measure of their proper functioning. They found that the protein-polymer hybrids moved as well as protein in water. Importantly they could still bind oxygen as well as myoglobin does in living tissue.
Among the applications the team intends to explore are wound dressings, in which the liquid protein would act like an oxygen pump, with a chemical reaction between the protein layer and a glucose membrane drawing oxygen down through the dressing to the surface of the skin.