Scientific accident paves way for protein-based microprocessors

A METHOD for creating nanofibres could underpin the development of super-fast computer processors made using proteins.

Developed by researchers at Polytechnic Institute of New York University (NYU-Poly) the technique was discovered by accident. A chance observation made by Susheel Gunasekar, a doctoral student in NYU's Department of Chemical and Biological Sciences two years ago sparked the research project.

During an experiment that involved studying certain cylinder-shaped proteins derived from cartilage oligomeric matrix protein (COMP), found predominantly in human cartilage, Gunasekar noticed that in high concentrations, these alpha helical coiled proteins spontaneously came together and self-assembled into nanofibers.

This was a surprising outcome, according to Jin Montclare, assistant professor and head of the department's Protein Engineering and Molecular Design Lab. She explained that COMP was not known to form fibres. "So we decided to do a series of experiments to see if we could control the fibre formation, and also control its binding to small molecules, which would be housed within the protein's cylinder," she said.

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