Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Biomaterials

Subjects

Millions of years of evolution have made the biological world into a supremely effective materials-development laboratory. This Outlook examines the ways in which substances found in the natural world are inspiring imitations that might eventually endow humans with superhuman powers (see page S2).

Credit: Paul Price

We begin the exploration with a close look at a familiar creature: the spider (S4). The silk that these arthropods use to spin webs is extraordinarily tough. Indeed, the scene from Spider-Man 2 in which a New York City subway train is stopped by a spiderweb is not far removed from the realms of reality. Scientists are learning how to fabricate synthetic versions of these fibres.

Other researchers are studying plants and animals for ideas on how to design coatings and textures that imbue surfaces with special properties, such as the extreme stickiness of gecko feet (S7). In the sea, the adhesive that mussels use to cling to slippery rocks is leading to the development of polymeric glues that could repair wounds (S12). Hard natural materials such as bone and fish scales have intricate structures that could potentially lead to flexible, protective armour (S14). And what better inspiration for improving clothes than the tissues that shield plants and animals from the elements and provide them with adaptive camouflage (S10)?

Biomaterials are essential in developing organ-on-a-chip technology (S16). And they have a promising niche in improved drug-delivery systems that would go a long way to solving one of medicine's biggest problems: that patients rarely follow their prescribed course of treatment (S19).

We are pleased to acknowledge that this Outlook was produced with the support of KISCO Ltd. in association with Spiber Inc. As always, Nature retains sole responsibility for all editorial content.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Brody, H. Biomaterials. Nature 519, S1 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1038/519S1a

Download citation

Further reading

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing