Amyloid Materials Flash Game: Explore Amyloids
Play a Flash game and learn about amyloids in your world: from salmonella to the strength of spider silk, from what nanotechnology is to future technology. The Emergent Universe, an online interactive science museum about emergence.
Information About the Pieces
Organic Solar Cells
a transparent window coating that creates electricity, or a plastic
chip that powers your MP3 player. Organic solar cells – cheap,
lightweight polymer-based materials that convert sunlight to
electricity – offer just such promises. But they will only be
realized if scientists can increase the conductivity of these
materials, enabling the sunlight-generated charges to flow more
efficiently to the external circuit. Amyloid fibrils have been shown
to align the conducting polymers in such cells, creating nanoscale
wires and increased current output.
electronic circuits hold great technological promise for applications
ranging from electronic paper to medical implants, because they are
smaller, use less energy, and can be embedded in more flexible
materials than conventional silicon circuitry can. Scientists have
demonstrated that nanoscale wires and transistors can be made from
amyloid fibrils by coating them with metals or conducting polymers.
Using amyloid fibrils to create nanoscale
circuitry is especially appealing, because their tendency to
self-assemble could greatly simply the fabrication process.
engineering is a relatively new science. Its purpose is to develop
methods for replacing or repairing damaged body tissue, especially
organs and bone. In prototype studies, amyloid fibrils have been used
to provide scaffolding for new tissue growth. Cell receptors are
attached to the amyloid scaffolding to attract the tissue cells. It
is hypothesized that the nanoscale
size of the amyloid fibrils may allow scientists to control the
receptor spacing and thus the receptor-cell interactions.
Controlled Drug Delivery
amyloid fibrils form gel-like materials, called hydrogels, which can
encapsulate drugs. Often, the proteins that make up these fibrils
will only self-aggregate once they’ve folded into a “Beta-turn.”
Researchers have designed proteins that only make the Beta-turn
under specific conditions, enabling them to turn hydrogel formation
and drug encapsulation on and off. Such designed proteins, in which
the interactions are chosen to control conditions of amyloid
formation, could open doors for targeted drug delivery.
attaching enzymes -- biological molecules that catalyze reactions --
to amyloid fibrils, and loading these now catalytically active
fibrils onto a filter, researchers have created a prototype filter
for cleaning polluted water. This prototype filter was found to be
active and stable over time. Indeed, due to the nanoscale
size of amyloid fibrils, they may provide an ideal support structure
for many different types of enzymes, leading to filters with high
enzyme density and sustainable catalytic activity.
bodies produce antibodies to attack foreign bacteria and viruses,
called antigens. Because the antibodies produced bind only to their
associated antigen, antibody-antigen binding is used to test for the
presence of specific infections, like HIV or mononucleosis. Research
shows that antibodies retain their antigen-binding ability when
attached to amyloid fibrils. These results suggest that amyloid
fibrils could be used as scaffolding for nanoscale-sized
infection tests, enabling doctors to test for many infections
simultaneously using only small amounts of blood.
weaver spiders, which include many common garden spiders, produce up
to 6 different silks for different purposes. Dragline silk, which is
used as the spider’s lifeline, as well as for the spokes and
outer rim of the web, contains amyloid fibrils. Stronger than steel
yet extremely flexible, this amyloid-based spider silk is being
considered for many uses, from bullet-proof vests to stitches to
scaffolding for in
vivo ligament growth.
Lacewing Egg Stalk
Lacewing larvae are predatory insects often used for pest control in
organic gardens. The adult Green Lacewing lays its eggs at the end of
an incredibly thin stalk, a tactic that helps to protect the larvae.
These stalks are typically thinner than a fine human hair and about a
centimeter long; yet they are strong enough to hold the weight of the
hatchlings. What are these amazing stalks made of? Why, amyloid
fibrils of course!
filament-shaped species of green algae live attached to plants,
rocks, and other substrates. For such algae to survive, their
attachment adhesives must be able to withstand repeated stresses,
such as wave action or footsteps. Some of these algae appear to use
an amyloid-fibril-based adhesive. The resulting bonds are extremely
strong, and they appear to avoid rupture by self-healing after
stress, a feature thought to stem from the ability of amyloid fibrils
are disease-causing bacteria commonly found in poultry and meat. They
secrete an amyloid-fibril adhesive that helps them stick to surfaces
and to each other, and thus to self-aggregate into surface films
(also an emergent phenomenon!). Forming films enables Salmonella to
colonize in host intestines and to survive on surfaces outside the
host. Salmonella surviving on jalapeño and serrano peppers,
most likely in films, were responsible for a major outbreak of
Salmonellosis in the U.S. in 2008.
The bacteria S. coelicolor is a source of medicinal
antibiotics. To reproduce, this moist-soil-dwelling bacteria must
shoot a spore stalk out into the air. To help this stalk break free
of its wet environment, it excretes proteins that spontaneously
aggregate into water-repelling amyloid fibrils at the air-water
interface. Thus, when the stalk encounters air, it develops a
water-repellant amyloid coating that promotes its escape. The image
shows S. coelicolor
producing antibiotic (blue color).
municipal wastewater treatment, bacteria suspended in an “activated
sludge” are used to metabolize organic pollutants, converting
them into water, carbon dioxide, and more bacteria. Because these
bacteria aggregate into particles, called flocs, they are easily
separated from the treated water. Recent research suggests that
amyloid is a substantial component of the natural extracellular
material that helps bind these bacteria into flocs.
is a pigment in your skin that protects against UV and oxidative
damage. Researchers have discovered that melanin production involves
amyloid fibrils of the protein Pmel17, providing the first example of
a non-disease-associated amyloid in humans. Synthesis of this amyloid
occurs rapidly in a specialized compartment, presumably to protect
cells from exposure to small clusters of the Pmel17 protein, the
potentially toxic amyloid precursor.
annual killifish A.
limnaeus lives in ephemeral ponds in the
Venezuelan coastal desert. When the ponds evaporate, the adult
killifish die, but their egg embryos can survive the extreme desert
conditions until the rains return. These embryos demonstrate an
unprecedented resistance to water loss, and amyloid fibrils in the
embryo egg casings may be partially responsible. Researchers found
that the amount of Beta-sheet
structure, and thus presumably of amyloid fibrils, increases in
desiccating conditions and decreases again on rehydration.
must accomplish numerous functions, protecting the embryo from
physical damage, bacteria, dehydration, etc., while still allowing
the embryo to breathe. The silk-moth eggshell uses progressively
rotating layers of ordered, protein-based fibers to accomplish these
tasks. Model protein fragments that closely resemble the proteins in
silk-moth eggshells have been shown to spontaneously form amyloid
fibrils, strongly suggesting that the fibers that make up silk-moth
eggshells are also amyloid.
You have probably heard of nanotechnology – technology based on nanoscale-sized materials. But how small, really, is a nanoscale material? Technically, nanoscale means in the size range of nanometers, where a nanometer is 10-9 meters…uh, right. Ok, think of a meter stick. A decimeter is 1/10 of a meter, written as 10-1 meters. A centimeter is 10 times smaller, or 1/100 of a meter (10-2m). A millimeter is 10 times smaller yet (10-3m), or about the thickness of a dime. Another 10 times smaller (for 10-4m) is the width of a thick human hair. Bacteria are typically about another 100 times smaller (10-6m), and viruses 10 times smaller yet at 10-7m. So at 10-9m nanoscale materials are about 100 times smaller than viruses. An example nanoscale material is DNA. Its diameter is two times 10-9m, or 2 nanometers.