ABSTRACT: Biological protein materials (BPMs), intriguing hierarchical structures formed by assembly of chemical building blocks, are crucial for critical functions of life. The structural details of BPMs are fascinating: They represent a combination of universally found motifs such as alpha-helices or beta-sheets with highly adapted protein structures such as cytoskeletal networks or spider silk nanocomposites. BPMs combine properties like strength and robustness, self-healing ability, adaptability, changeability, evolvability and others into multi-functional materials at a level unmatched in synthetic materials. The ability to achieve these properties depends critically on the particular traits of these materials, first and foremost their hierarchical architecture and seamless integration of material and structure, from nano to macro. Here, we provide a brief review of this field and outline new research directions, along with a review of recent research results in the development of structure-property relationships of biological protein materials exemplified in a study of vimentin intermediate filaments.
Computer Methods in Biomechanics and Biomedical Engineering 10/2008; 11(6):595-607. · 0.85 Impact Factor