The paper ‘Polymeric peptide pigments with sequence-encoded properties’ is the joint effort of some 15 scientists work at CUNY colleges and other institutions around the world, including the Groningen Biomolecular Sciences and Biotechnology Institute in the Netherlands as well as the School of Engineering and Applies Sciences at Harvard.
An item about the research on CUNY’s Advanced Science Research Center site, notes the commercial value of the project upfront: “These innovative materials could enable the development of a range of new cosmetic, skin care and biomedical products.”
The abstract for the published research paper gives a bit more insight into why the team is optimistic about their new molecular codes finding a place in the market so quickly. “Oxidative polymerization can be tuned in a sequence-dependent manner, resulting in peptide sequence–encoded properties such as UV absorbance, morphology, coloration, and electrochemical properties over a considerable range,” explain the researchers.
They go on to emphasize that “short peptides have low barriers to application and can be easily scaled, suggesting near-term applications in cosmetics and biomedicine.”
Science made simple
The molecules that make up natural melanin apparently function in a state of disorder. “We found that the key to achieving polymers with controlled disorder is to start from systems that have variable order built in,” Ayala Lampel, the paper’s first author says in the ASRC item.
She goes on to explain that the team first “figured out how the amino acid sequence of a set of tripeptides gives rise to differently ordered architectures. Next, we leveraged these ordered structures as templates for catalytic oxidation to form peptide pigments with a range of properties.”
With their molecular codes (which is to say the amino acid sequence of the tripeptides) the team has been able to control color, UV absorbance, and nanoscale morphology, according to the ASRC item.