Insect’s Amazing ‘Rubber’ Made in Lab

Bjorn Carey, LiveScience Staff Writer, writes,

A special type of protein enables insects to chirp, fly, and hop. Now, scientists have produced this same protein in the lab and say it could one day be used to repair human arteries.

The protein, called resilin, is like rubber. It can be squished up, storing energy for a quick release, and it remains extremely functional over an insect’s lifetime.

Flies take advantage of the material’s durability to flap their wings more than 720,000 times an hour. Froghoppers and fleas achieve a jump acceleration of more than 400 times gravity in just one millisecond thanks to the quick release of energy from a tendon full of resilin.

While most insects use it for getting around, others, such as cicadas, moths, and some crustaceans, use it like a drum to make noise. And if incorporated into an insect’s outer shell, resilin provides elasticity to an otherwise stiff structure. This is how termite queens manage to haul around a load of eggs and how ticks store their sperm.

According to the article, it is structurally similar to elastin, the molecule that allows blood vessels to expand and contract, and the scientists think they may be able to use the manufactured resilin to repair stretched out, damaged blood vessels.

More in the article.

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