Knotted proteins as nano-machines
The Institute for Biologically inspired materials (BIMat) is developing models with which to study the principles of protein folding in a project led by Dr. Ivan Coluzza at the Faculty of Physics of the University of Vienna. Dr. Coluzza has developed a physical model which allows describing proteins as simple strings of particles that spontaneously can fold from a stretch chain into a three-dimensional structure defined by the sequence of particles. In cooperation with Dr. Peter van Oostrum at BIMat this model has been extended to allow the design of completely new types of polymers, which based on the same principles as proteins can fold into a wider range of 3-D structures.
The computationally very intensive simulations have been made possible by access to the powerful Vienna Scientific Cluster (VSC), a high performance computing infrastructure operated jointly by the University of Vienna, the Vienna University of Technology and the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna.
These findings were recently published in the prestigious physics journals Physical Review Letters and Soft Matter, where e.g. the ability to design and fold polymer knots was demonstrated. Knotted nanostructures could be used as new stable drug delivery vehicles and as enzyme-like, but more stable, catalysts. The great promise of this theoretical work is the close cooperation of the University of Vienna team with BOKU-BIMat researchers. This has ensured that the model is based on systems that can be practically realized, and which are researched and synthesized in parallel at BIMat.