September 07, 2021

Want Muscles? Wear a Shirt

Gym jockeys, rejoice! You may finally have the muscular look you have been working so hard for, but instead of pumping iron, you can just slip on a special shirt.

Researchers from Washington Universityin St. Louis, Missouri, have developed a method to polymerise proteins with engineered microbes into “muscle fibres” – and all without harming a single animal.

Fuzhong Zhang, lead on the study, initially wondered: “Why don’t we just directly make synthetic muscles? But we’re not going to harvest them from animals, we’ll use microbes to do it.”

Soon, he and his team were combining molecules together in order to create titin, one of the three major protein parts that make up muscle tissue.

The process involved tinkering with bacteria to piece together the segments that produced the fibres that measured 10 microns in diameter, or one-tenth the thickness of a human hair. They then analysed these strands to find those properties that enabled a combination of toughness, strength and heat dissipation.

The way they create the actual clothing is by wet-spinning – dissolving the material into a solvent that can be applied to whatever shape desired – and fashioned into the clothes.

What the team created was something tougher than kevlar. Adding to the fact that it’s cheap, eco-friendly and easy to produce, it opens the door for a wide range of applications – such as medically superior wound dressings and improved body armour – besides making fancy clothes that make people look jacked.