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Harvard's Wyss Institute uses nature's design principles to create specialized nanofabrics

for regenerating tissue typically involve using synthetic polymers to create a scaffolding. But this approach can cause negative side effects as the polymers degrade. By contrast, nanofabrics are made from the same proteins as normal tissue, and thus the body can degrade them with no ill effects once they are no longer needed. Initial results have produced strands of heart muscle similar to the papillary muscle, which may lead to new strategies for repair and regeneration throughout the heart.

"With nanofabrics, we can control thread count, orientation, and composition, and that capability allows us to create novel tissue engineering scaffolds that direct regeneration," said Parker. "It also enables us to exploit the nanoscale properties of these proteins in new ways beyond medical applications. There are a broad range of applications for this technology using natural, or designer, synthetic proteins."

High-performance textiles are the second main application for this technology. By altering the type of protein used in the matrix, researchers can manipulate thread count, fiber orientation, and other properties to create fabrics with extraordinary properties. Today, an average rubber band can be stretched 500 to 600 percent, but future textiles may be stretchable by as much as 1,500 percent. Future applications for such textiles are as diverse as form-fitting clothing, bandages that accelerate healing, and industrial manufacturing.

The research is part of a larger program in Nanotextiles at the Wyss Institute and SEAS. In the same issue of Nano Letters, Parker's team also reported on the development of a new technology that fabricates nanofibers using a high-speed, rotating jet and nozzle. This invention has potential applications ranging from artificial organs and tissue regeneration to clothing and air filters.

"The Wyss Institute is very proud to be associated with two such significant discoveries," said Donald E. I

Contact: Mary Tolikas
Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard

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