Electro-assembly of a dynamically adaptive molten fibril state for collagen

Sci Adv. 2022 Feb 4;8(5):eabl7506. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.abl7506. Epub 2022 Feb 2.


Collagen is a biological building block that is hierarchically assembled into diverse morphological structures that, in some cases, is dynamically adaptive in response to external cues and in other cases forms static terminal structures. Technically, there is limited capabilities to guide the emergence of collagen's hierarchical organization to recapitulate the richness of biological structure and function. Here, we report an electro-assembly pathway to create a dynamically adaptive intermediate molten fibril state for collagen. Structurally, this intermediate state is composed of partially aligned and reversibly associating fibrils with limited hierarchical structure. These molten fibrils can be reversibly reconfigured to offer dynamic properties such as stimuli-stiffening, stimuli-contracting, self-healing, and self-shaping. Also, molten fibrils can be guided to further assemble to recapitulate the characteristic hierarchical structural features of native collagen (e.g., aligned fibers with D-banding). We envision that the electro-assembly of collagen fibrils will provide previously unidentified opportunities for tailored collagen-based biomedical materials.