Scientists at the University of Strathclyde and City University of New York developed the system, and this week published an article describing their work in the journal Nature Chemistry.
Before and after
Previously researchers would hit upon new gels by coincidence, since there was no scheme for determining if any given combination of three amino acids would form a viable structure, explains nanowerk.com.
This team has “developed a screening method to accurately predict how peptides – the building blocks of living systems – could combine to form stable gels,” according to the nanowerk article.
“It is our aim to design structures based on peptides that are inspired by biology, but are much simpler, making them scalable, tunable, robust and functional and we now have predictive methods to achieve this,” Professor Rein Ulijn, the director of nanoscience at City University New York’s advanced research centre, is quoted as saying by nanowerk.
Mysterious no more
The new screening strategy means that researchers can, to an extent, consider what properties they’d like a biological gel to exhibit and work backwards to select the right peptides for the job.
Up to now, “gelators based on unprotected tripeptides remain elusive, and only a small section of the available sequence space has been explored,” reads the article in Nature Chemistry.
The new technology will save tremendous time and research as well as lead to some valuable new ingredients: “Unprotected peptides are inherently biodegradable to natural metabolites and are therefore of interest to the design of materials that interface with biological systems. In terms of applications, they complement protected peptides, with unprotected variants more likely to be acceptable for applications in food science, cosmetics and biomedicine,” wrote the scientists.
According to Nature Chemistry online, “The University of Strathclyde has filed a patent application (UK Patent application no. 1417885.9) on technology related to the processes described in this article.”
The FDA announced guidelines to guard against any safety issues arising from the use of nanomaterials as cosmetics ingredients. “This continues to be a grey area for many due to a continued lack of scientific data on how nanomaterials behave in cosmetics formulations and how they are absorbed when topically applied,” reported Cosmetics Design this summer when the guidelines were issued.
The Administrations recommendations are not legally binding, but are clearly intended to steer cosmetics brands to act in the interest of consumers’ wellbeing: “The safety of a cosmetic product should be evaluated by analysing the physico-chemical properties and the relevant toxicological endpoints of each ingredient in relation to the expected exposure, resulting from the intended use of the finished product,” the guidelines read.