A microscopic photograph of muscle fibers. 

By Andrea Núñez-Torrón Stock
 and Nathan Rennolds

  • Researchers from the University of Freiburg created an artificial muscle from natural proteins.
  • According to the press release, it can contract autonomously by changing pH and temperature.
  • Natural proteins improve biocompatibility for use in implants and other prosthetics.

The creation of synthetic muscles is an important and growing field in robotics and reconstructive medicine. They could be key in the development of new implants and more sophisticated prosthetics. 

German researchers have now managed to create a synthetic muscle entirely from natural proteins, according to a press release from the University of Freiburg.

The team was led by Dr. Stefan Schiller and Dr. Matthias Huber from the livMatS Cluster of Excellence at the University of Freiburg. 

Natural proteins had been used to make artificial muscles before. But until now, there hasn’t been one that can contract autonomously using chemical energy.

Elastin is the natural protein that the scientists used to create their artificial protein. 

It’s a protein found in human skin and blood vessels, the press release explained.

The team then designed two proteins based on elastin, each responding to a different stimulus — a change in temperature and a change in pH.

These were then combined in layers using a process called photochemical cross-linking. This procedure is explained in the research, published in Advanced Intelligent Systems.

“The high biocompatibility of the material and the possibility of adjusting its composition to match particular tissue could pave the way for future applications in reconstructive medicine, prosthetics, pharmaceutics, or soft robotics,” Schiller said in the press release.

“In the future, the material could be developed further to respond to other stimuli, such as the salt concentration in the environment, and to consume other energy sources, such as malate derived from biomass,” Schiller added.

Via BusinessInsider.com