Uncovering the secrets of elastin’s flexibility

Friday, February 5, 2016 - 14:33 in Biology & Nature

Elastin is a crucial building block in our bodies. Its flexibility allows skin to stretch and twist, blood vessels to expand and relax with every heartbeat, and lungs to swell and contract with each breath. But exactly how this protein-based tissue assembles itself to achieve this flexibility remained an unsolved question — until now. This material has a remarkable combination of flexibility and durability: Elastin is one of the body’s most long-lasting component proteins, with an average survival time comparable to a human lifespan. During that time, the elastin in a blood vessel, for example, will have gone through an estimated 2 billion cycles of pulsation. A team of researchers at MIT, in Australia, and in the U.K. has carried out an analysis that reveals the details of a hierarchical structure of scissor-shaped molecules that gives elastin its remarkable properties. The findings were published this week in the journal Science Advances, in...

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