Biomimetic actuators: where technology and cell biology merge
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The structural and functional analysis of biological macromolecules has reached a level of resolution that allows mechanistic interpretations of molecular action, giving rise to the view of enzymes as molecular machines. This machine analogy is not merely metaphorical, as bio-analogous molecular machines actually are being used as motors in the fields of nanotechnology and robotics. As the borderline between molecular cell biology and technology blurs, developments in the engineering and material sciences become increasingly instructive sources of models and concepts for biologists. In this review, we provide a – necessarily selective – summary of recent progress in the usage of biological and biomimetic materials as actuators in artificial environments, focussing on motors built from DNA, classical cellular motor systems (tubulin/kinesin, actin/myosin), the rotary motor F1FO-ATPase and protein-based ‘smart’ materials.
Key words.Biomimetic actuators biomimetic smart materials contractility cytoskeleton molecular machines motor proteins protein-based polymers
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