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Skindeep: muscle elasticity.

Who: Canadian researchers at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Vancouver have developed a material that closely mimics the elasticity of muscle.

Technology: Biomedical researchers have been trying to make a synthetic polymer like human muscle for some time. Titin--also known as connectin--is a giant protein that plays a vital role in the passive elasticity of muscle. The engineered version, which resembles a chain of beads, is roughly 100 times smaller than titin. The resulting rubber-like biomaterial showed high resilience at low strain and was tough at high strain- features that make up the elastic properties of muscles.

Application: Artificial muscle could replace damaged muscle tissue in operations or be used in prosthetics. Hongbin Li, associate professor in the department of chemistry at UBC, says: "There are obvious longterm implications for tissue engineers. But at a fundamental level, we've learned that the mechanical properties we engineer into the individual proteins that make up this biomaterial can be translated into useful mechanical properties at the larger scale."

The mechanical properties of the biomaterials can be fine-tuned, providing the opportunity to develop biomaterials that exhibit a wide range of useful properties--including mimicking different types of muscles. The material is also fully hydrated and biodegradable.

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Title Annotation:MEDICAL; University of British Columbia research on the elasticity of muscle
Publication:Professional Engineering Magazine
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:May 19, 2010
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