Reflectins, the unique structural proteins that give squids and octopuses the ability to change colors and blend in with their surroundings, are thought to have great potential for innovations in areas as diverse as electronics, optics, and medicine. Scientists and inventors have been stymied in their attempts to fully utilize the powers of these biomolecules due to their atypical chemical composition and high sensitivity to subtle environmental changes.
Researchers have revealed the structure of a reflectin variant at the molecular level, and they have demonstrated a method for mechanically controlling the hierarchical assembly and optical properties of the protein. These findings are seen as key steps in exploiting many of the potentially useful attributes of the reflectin family.
Scientists are attracted to reflectin because similar to other protein-based materials, they offer many advantageous attributes such as controllable self-assembly, stimuli-responsiveness, customizable functionality, and compatibility with other biological systems. The model biomaterials have also shown their usefulness for modifying the refractive index of human cells and supporting the growth of neural stem cells.