Biomimicry provides an understanding of life by providing knowledge and mimicking the actions of nature to make biological developments.
By Zahra Tariq and Areeba Akhtar
It is the learning and emulation of the tactics used by species used for their survival. Emulation, ethos, and connection, with the nature are the important aspects of biomimicry. Emulation is the scientific research-based learning to mimic the natural forms, and processes. Ethos is the philosophical understanding of the working of life especially in favorable conditions. Connect is the connection with nature for thorough understanding and proper mimicking action.
The natural substances present at the molecular level mimic the actions of other substances and destroy their working. For example, inhibitors mimic the actions of some enzymes and disrupts their proper functioning. Similarly, other substances like drugs, chemicals or micro-organisms can destroy the proper functioning by mimicking the configuration and actions of fundamental biochemical molecules thus, causing various pathological or auto-immune diseases.
A strong association between the level of antibodies to bovine serum albumin in the blood and in type 1 diabetes has been found. An examination of the levels of bovine serum albumin – BSA and antibodies in some diabetic children has shown higher levels than normal 3.55 RFFs. BSA is present in cow’s milk that has a specific sequence of 17 amino acids found in proteins which is different from human albumin but same as the 17 amino acid sequence found on insulin producing pancreatic cells. This sequence of amino acids in BSA is recognized by the immune system as any foreign invader, so the body starts producing antibodies to eliminate the invaders. Consequently, the immune system is unable to distinguish cow’s milk protein fragments from pancreatic cells. So, pancreas get destroyed and ultimately type 1 diabetes is caused.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease and affects mainly the joints and some other body parts like bones, eyes, or red blood count and occurs commonly in women. It is related to urinary tract infections; caused by the bacterium E. coli, which belongs to the Proteus genus. A protein sequence present in the proteus bacteria mimics the amino acid sequence and the conformation of a protein known as collagen present abundantly in the muscles and other connective tissues of some animals, mammals. This mimicry of the protein in humans disrupts the structures of bones, joints, and cartilages and causes diseases like Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Drugs like nicotine and marijuana mimic the action of neurotransmitters. That is due to the similarity of their structure and conformation with the natural body chemicals, thus affect the transmission of impulses and normal body processes. For example, nicotine mimics the action of acetylcholine on its receptors and stimulates nerve impulses. Resultantly, it causes various changes in body chemistry, altering the heart rate, blood pressure, and digestive tract mobility. Similarly, the abusive intake of marijuana can cause schizophrenia, obesity, multiple sclerosis, and addiction. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), present as an active ingredient in marijuana, binds to the cannabinoid receptors in the brain, mimics the action of other endogenous transmitters like anandamides. That causes various psychological, immunological, and physical diseases.
Currently, biomimetic nanoparticles are being used and tested for transplantation surgeries. Nanotherapeutics are making progress in developing cancer treatments and antigen-specific immunomodulation in autoimmune diseases. They are trying to deliver tolerance by experimenting with antigen complexity and exploiting multiple tolerance pathways. Rejection mechanisms are causing a hindrance in conventional nano-delivery systems. Soon, the biomimicry mechanisms causing different disorders will help to treat the diseases.
Authors: Zahra Tariq and Areeba Akhtar, Genetics department, Kinnaird College for Women university, Lahore.