Designed biomaterials to mimic the mechanical properties of muscles

Nature. 2010 May 6;465(7294):69-73. doi: 10.1038/nature09024.


The passive elasticity of muscle is largely governed by the I-band part of the giant muscle protein titin, a complex molecular spring composed of a series of individually folded immunoglobulin-like domains as well as largely unstructured unique sequences. These mechanical elements have distinct mechanical properties, and when combined, they provide the desired passive elastic properties of muscle, which are a unique combination of strength, extensibility and resilience. Single-molecule atomic force microscopy (AFM) studies demonstrated that the macroscopic behaviour of titin in intact myofibrils can be reconstituted by combining the mechanical properties of these mechanical elements measured at the single-molecule level. Here we report artificial elastomeric proteins that mimic the molecular architecture of titin through the combination of well-characterized protein domains GB1 and resilin. We show that these artificial elastomeric proteins can be photochemically crosslinked and cast into solid biomaterials. These biomaterials behave as rubber-like materials showing high resilience at low strain and as shock-absorber-like materials at high strain by effectively dissipating energy. These properties are comparable to the passive elastic properties of muscles within the physiological range of sarcomere length and so these materials represent a new muscle-mimetic biomaterial. The mechanical properties of these biomaterials can be fine-tuned by adjusting the composition of the elastomeric proteins, providing the opportunity to develop biomaterials that are mimetic of different types of muscles. We anticipate that these biomaterials will find applications in tissue engineering as scaffold and matrix for artificial muscles.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biocompatible Materials / chemical synthesis
  • Biocompatible Materials / chemistry*
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Biomimetics / methods
  • Biopolymers / chemistry*
  • Connectin
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics
  • Elasticity
  • Muscle Proteins / chemistry*
  • Polyproteins / chemistry
  • Protein Kinases / chemistry*
  • Stress, Mechanical


  • Biocompatible Materials
  • Biopolymers
  • Connectin
  • Muscle Proteins
  • Polyproteins
  • Protein Kinases