Biophysicists long for an ideal materialsomething more structured and less sticky than a standard glass surfaceto anchor and position individual biomolecules. Gold is an alluring possibility, with its simple chemistry and the ease with which it can be patterned. Unfortunately, gold also tends to be sticky and can be melted by lasers. Now, biophysicists at JILA have made gold more precious than everat least as a research toolby creating nonstick gold surfaces and laser-safe gold nanoposts, a potential boon to laser trapping of biomolecules.
JILA is a joint institute of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the University of Colorado at Boulder.
JILAs successful use of gold in optical-trapping experiments, reported in Nano Letters,* could lead to a 10-fold increase in numbers of single molecules studied in certain assays, from roughly five to 50 per day, according to group leader Tom Perkins of NIST. The ability to carry out more experiments with greater precision will lead to new insights, such as uncovering diversity in seemingly identical molecules, and enhance NISTs ability to carry out mission work, such as reproducing and verifying piconewton-scale force measurements using DNA, Perkins says. (A one-kilogram mass on the Earths surface exerts a force of roughly 10 newtons. A piconewton is 0.000 000 000 001 newtons. See JILA Finds Flaw in Model Describing DNA Elasticity NIST Tech Beat, Sept. 13, 2007.)
Perkins and other biophysicists use laser beams to precisely manipulate, track and measure molecules like DNA, which typically have one end bonded to a surface and the other end attached to a micron-sized bead that acts as a handle for the laser. Until now, creating the platform for such experiments has generally involved nonspecifically absorbing fragile molecules onto a sticky glass surface, producing random spacing and sometimes destroying biological activity. Its like dropping a car onto a road from 1
|Contact: Laura Ost|
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)