Evolutionary molecular engineering for designing biomaterials
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Evolutionary molecular engineering for designing biomaterials

Yoshihiro Ito

Nano Medical Engineering Laboratory, RIKEN Advanced Science Institute,

2-1 Hirosawa, Wako-shi, Saitama 351-0198, Japan


The use of biological components is very useful in designing biomaterials (1–3). Currently used biological components, including nucleic acids, proteins and polysaccharides, provide various biological functions for artificial biomaterials. Generally, biological systems are organized into specific structures based on exquisitely precise molecular recognition. These recognition systems will be used to develop new functional molecules and materials. They will also impart new functions through molecular recognition in producing molecular sensors, inhibitors (drugs), catalysts, biomaterials and novel chemicals.

Evolutionary molecular engineering enables us to mimic nature’s engineering principles using variation and selection and even advance these principles to generate functional nonnatural compounds. So far, a couple of molecular evolution techniques have been proposed for selecting functional oligonucleotides, proteins and peptides from an artificial, randomized sequence library: so- called in vitro selection. We currently employ ‘Ribosome display’, one of the in vitro selection techniques, to maximize the limited benefits of constructing an artificial library (4) and have succeeded in introducing nonnatural amino acids into the selection system.

We are developing new functional peptides for some applications such as immobilization of a growth factor on metals for medical application, wrapping of carbon nanotubes, and generation of sensors to detect a target protein. From these achievements, we strongly believe that in vitro selection is a promising technique to permit harnessing of the functions of biomolecules in medicinal, environmental, material, and nanotechnological fields, and even to create novel functional molecules.


1)    Y. Ito, Soft Matter, 4, 46–56 (2008)

2)    Y. Ito, “Comprehensive Biomaterials, Vol. 4, Surface Engineering,” ed. by P. Ducheyne, et al., Elsevier, pp. 247–279 (2011)

3)    B. Joddar and Y. Ito, J. Mater. Chem., 21, 13737–13755 (2011)

4)    W. Wang, et al., J. Biosci. Bioeng., 112, 515–517 (2011)