Design of synthetic collagens that assemble into supramolecular banded fibers as a functional biomaterial testbed

Jinyuan Hu, Junhui Li, Jennifer Jiang, Lingling Wang, Jonathan Roth, Kenneth N. McGuinness, Jean Baum, Wei Dai, Yao Sun, Vikas Nanda, Fei Xu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Collagens are the most abundant proteins of the extracellular matrix, and the hierarchical folding and supramolecular assembly of collagens into banded fibers is essential for mediating cell-matrix interactions and tissue mechanics. Collagen extracted from animal tissues is a valuable commodity, but suffers from safety and purity issues, limiting its biomaterials applications. Synthetic collagen biomaterials could address these issues, but their construction requires molecular-level control of folding and supramolecular assembly into ordered banded fibers, comparable to those of natural collagens. Here, we show an innovative class of banded fiber-forming synthetic collagens that recapitulate the morphology and some biological properties of natural collagens. The synthetic collagens comprise a functional-driver module that is flanked by adhesive modules that effectively promote their supramolecular assembly. Multiscale simulations support a plausible molecular-level mechanism of supramolecular assembly, allowing precise design of banded fiber morphology. We also experimentally demonstrate that synthetic fibers stimulate osteoblast differentiation at levels comparable to natural collagen. This work thus deepens understanding of collagen biology and disease by providing a ready source of safe, functional biomaterials that bridge the current gap between the simplicity of peptide biophysical models and the complexity of in vivo animal systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number6761
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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