Necessitated by the subzero temperatures and seasonal exposure to ice, various organisms have developed a remarkably effective means to survive the harsh climate of their natural habitats. Their ice-binding (glyco)proteins keep the nucleation and growth of ice crystals in check by recognizing and binding to specific ice crystal faces, which arrests further ice growth and inhibits ice recrystallization (IRI). Inspired by the success of this adaptive strategy, various approaches have been proposed over the past decades to engineer materials that harness these cryoprotective features. In this review we discuss the prospects and challenges associated with these advances focusing in particular on peptidic antifreeze materials both identical and akin to natural ice-binding proteins (IBPs). We address the latest advances in their design, synthesis, characterization and application in preservation of biologics and foods. Particular attention is devoted to insights in structure-activity relations culminating in the synthesis of de novo peptide analogues. These are sequences that resemble but are not identical to naturally occurring IBPs. We also draw attention to impactful developments in solid-phase peptide synthesis and ‘greener’ synthesis routes, which may aid to overcome one of the major bottlenecks in the translation of this technology: unavailability of large quantities of low-cost antifreeze materials with excellent IRI activity at (sub)micromolar concentrations.
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