Secret of vital organs’ elasticity unravelled

March 6th, 2011 - 6:17 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, March 6 (IANS) Scientists have unravelled the secrets of elastin, the protein that gives our vital organs their ability to expand and contract.

The elastin around our lungs, for example, expands with each intake of breath and contracts with each exhalation.

Other vital organs such as our skin and arteries absolutely depend on it, reports the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The discovery could lead to major advances in treatment for burns victims and for patients who need to replace damaged blood vessels, according to a University of Sydney statement.

The project leader, Professor Tony Weiss, School of Molecular Bioscience, University of Syndey, said: “Tropoelastin is a tiny protein ‘nanospring’ in the human body.”

“Our bodies assemble these nanosprings to put elasticity into tissues such as skin, blood vessels and lungs,” Weiss added.

“Our finding is the result of more than a decade of international collaboration,” spanning Australia, Britain, the US and Europe.

“We also found that tropoelastin has the extraordinary capacity to extend to eight times its initial length and then return to its original shape, with no loss of energy, so it behaves like a perfect spring. Nature is showing us how to make an ideal nanospring,” said Weiss.

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