New Technique Turns Viruses Into Useful Tools

A team of researchers led by Seung-Wuk Lee University of California (Berkeley) is creating structured films using viruses, a technique pioneered by Angela Belcher at MIT (Are viruses the way to green manufacturing?).  The researchers engineered the M13 virus to bind with specific inorganic materials.  Dipping and slowly removing a class sheet from a saline solution containing the virus followed by drying resulted in controlled self-assembly of structured films, where the structure could be controlled changing the virus concentration and the rate at which the glass sheets were pulled. 

The process shows promise in the fabrication of photonic crystals and organic photovoltaics.  The films can also be used to create a scaffold for growing living tissue by engineering viruses that express proteins which affect tissue growth.  In one experiment, a material similar to tooth enamel was created by growing cells on a structured film and then dipped the assembly into a solution containing calcium and phosphate ions. 

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