Sunday, July 19, 2009

The biomolecular interface and the definition of living

Definitional and classification issues often arise in any field of heightened focus and progress (e.g.; what is a planet?). For the many fields integrating organic and inorganic materials, an interesting issue comes up as to what is the definition of life. Many different gradations of living things are emerging.

Some interesting new cases of living materials are the idea of organic sensors made of biomaterial placed on buildings, self-replicating crystals and biological scaffolding for stem cell grown organs and 3D tissue printing.

De novo materials synthesis
One exciting aspect of the living/non-living classification is the new synthesis of both organic and inorganic materials. Scientists are creating de novo engineered proteins and other biological materials, non-naturally occurring inorganic materials with superior properties using molecular manufacturing techniques and hybrid organic-inorganic materials, with the best of organic and inorganic properties in one object, for example rotaxanes which could be used in quantum computing.

Definition of integration
Not just the definition of what is living arises, but also the definition of the integration of organic and inorganic materials. Alan H. Goldstein proposes that a true integration of organic and inorganic material involves communicating back and forth, not just a system which has properties or components of both organic and inorganic systems.

The future of biomolecular interfaces
The future of biomolecular interfaces is probably a further blurring of the underlying substrates as the focus is more relevantly on the properties and requirements of any challenge at hand.

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