The discovery of the previously unknown part of the molecule will be applied to the researchers’ work on designing improved versions of a human blood vessel and on repairing skin damage, including burns.
The research can be applied to treating cardiovascular disease and emphysema.
Using a high-powered combination of synchronised X-ray beams and elastin synthesis tools, the team discovered that human elastin contains a molecular bridge or ‘shock absorber’.
The team now has sufficient information to change just a billionth of a metre of the molecular bridge, which would result in dramatic changes to the elastin.
The abnormal protein produced an elastin which looks and behaves differently to normal elastin.
“In the future it may have applications in treating emphysema, which is caused by destruction to lung elastin.”