Polymers and biology, together in perfect harmony. This meeting has intrigued me with a number of sessions about bio-related polymers. Timothy Long’s group had two: one about determining which physical properties of polymers make the best vectors for gene therapy, and one about using DNA base pairs to make a polymer with two sets of properties. Heat it to disassociate the base pairs, and you get a flowy substance, cool to clamp them together again, and you’ve got something strong enough to do something with. Plus, there’s bio-inspired dental polymers from Temple University, enzymes in polymers for sensors from Hawaii Natural Energy Institute, and polymers derived from soybean oil, feathers, and rice. Finally, there was a presentation on making better cigarette filters from Salmon sperm, from the Ogata Research Laboratory, Ltd.
The general crush on bio-related polymers seems to stem from their ability to acquire reactive, “smart” properties from their biological components, as well as from the environmental advantages of making stuff from things that aren’t petroleum. Now, can they produce the self-drying jacket from Back to the Future II?