Press release issued: 6 June 2010
Scientists at the University of Bristol have discovered a way to make a highly concentrated water-free liquid of a key blood protein, myoglobin, opening up the possibility of new types of biomedical materials.
The experiments, carried out by Professor Stephen Mann, Dr Adam Perriman and Alex Brogan and colleagues in the School of Chemistry at the University of Bristol, and reported in the prestigious journal Nature Chemistry, found that the ability of the liquid protein to reversibly bind oxygen remains unchanged, which means that the potency of the oxygen molecules can be varied in response to the pressure applied.
The resulting liquid is a simplified form of “artificial blood” that might be used as a smart solvent-less fluid of highly concentrated protein for oxygen storage and delivery. For example, it might find uses in medical dressings and barrier films applied to wounds.
“To make a liquid myoglobin without adding water or any other solvent is really exciting, to find that the protein is still active in binding oxygen was astounding”, said Professor Mann.
The findings represent a significant scientific breakthrough given that it has been previously thought that the structure and properties of proteins require water molecules to operate correctly. The discovery of a water-less liquid protein with high chemical potency could therefore lead to a re-evaluation of the importance of water molecules in protein folding in general.
The research was funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).
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