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Penn molecular scientists develop color-changing stress sensor
Date:8/18/2011

PHILADELPHIA It is helpful even life-saving to have a warning sign before a structural system fails, but, when the system is only a few nanometers in size, having a sign that's easy to read is a challenge. Now, thanks to a clever bit of molecular design by University of Pennsylvania and Duke University bioengineers and chemists, such warning can come in the form of a simple color change.

The study was conducted by professor Daniel Hammer and graduate students Neha Kamat and Laurel Moses of the Department of Bioengineering in Penn's School of Engineering and Applied Science. They collaborated with associate professor Ivan Dmochowski and graduate student Zhengzheng Liao of the Department of Chemistry in Penn's School of Arts and Sciences, as well as professor Michael Therien and graduate student Jeff Rawson of Duke.

Their work was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The researchers' work involves two molecules: porphyrins, a class of naturally occurring pigments, and polymersomes, artificially engineered capsules that can carry a molecular payload in their hollow interiors. In this case, Kamat and Liao hypothesized that polymersomes could be used as stress sensors if their membranes were embedded with a certain type of light-emitting porphyrins.

The Penn researchers collaborated with the Therien lab, where the porphyrins were originally developed, to design polymersomes that were studded with the light-emitting molecules. When light is shined on these labeled polymersomes, the porphyrins absorb the light and then release it at a specific wavelength, or color. The Therien lab's porphyrins play a critical role in using the polymersomes as stress sensors, because their configuration and concentration controls the release of light.

"When you package these porphyrins in a confined environment, such as a polymersome membrane, you can modulate the light emission from the mol
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Contact: Evan Lerner
elerner@upenn.edu
215-573-6604
University of Pennsylvania
Source:Eurekalert  

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