Understanding and designing self-assembling protein structures (Dr. Renko de Vries)

Research in Dr. Renko de Vries' group primarily focusses on proteins as soft materials. Many natural structural proteins such as actin, collagen, keratin, elastin etc. spontaneously self-assemble into materials with spectacularly good mechanical properties and extremely well-defined structures. Natural protein materials are also often processed by humans into new types of materials, such as foods that are chopped, cooked, baked etc., or protein powders for the pharmaceutical industry. There are two main research lines within our group:

Relating protein sequence to protein self-assembly

In particular, we use recombinant DNA technology to design and produce proteins with simple sequences that give rise to useful self-assembly and mechanical properties. Since at present such designed proteins are still quite hard to make, the kind of applications that one has to think about are in particular biomedical applications such as hydrogels for cell growth, encapsulation and delivery of drugs, and bioactive surface coatings.

Relating protein processing to protein self-assembly

This work focuses mostly on the role of proteins in food structure. A key issue for proteins in relation to food structure is the influence of processing conditions such as heating, solvent conditions, enzymatic treatmenst, high pressure, mechanical deformation etc., on the self-assembly or aggregation state of the proteins: this determines the microstructure and hence the properties of the food as a material at larger lengthscales.

Former group members

Armando Hernandez Garcia, Yunus Saricay, Monika Golinska, Luben Arnaudov, Esio Bessa, Saskia Lindhoud, Yuan Li,  Kathelijne Wintraecken, Dilek Saglam.