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Using carbon nanotubes to seek and destroy anthrax toxin and other harmful proteins
Date:12/10/2007

Troy, N.Y. Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have developed a new way to seek out specific proteins, including dangerous proteins such as anthrax toxin, and render them harmless using nothing but light. The technique lends itself to the creation of new antibacterial and antimicrobial films to help curb the spread of germs, and also holds promise for new methods of seeking out and killing tumors in the human body.

Scientists have long been interested in wrapping proteins around carbon nanotubes, and the process is used for various applications in imaging, biosensing, and cellular delivery. But this new study at Rensselaer is the first to remotely control the activity of these conjugated nanotubes. Details of the project are outlined in the article Nanotube-Assisted Protein Deactivation in the December issue of Nature Nanotechnology.

A team of Rensselaer researchers led by Ravi S. Kane, professor of chemical and biological engineering, has worked for nearly a year to develop a means to remotely deactivate protein-wrapped carbon nanotubes by exposing them to invisible and near-infrared light. The group demonstrated this method by successfully deactivating anthrax toxin and other proteins.

By attaching peptides to carbon nanotubes, we gave them the ability to selectively recognize a protein of interest in this case anthrax toxin from a mixture of different proteins, Kane said. Then, by exposing the mixture to light, we could selectively deactivate this protein without disturbing the other proteins in the mixture.

By conjugating carbon nanotubes with different peptides, this process can be easily tailored to work on other harmful proteins, Kane said. Also, employing different wavelengths of light that can pass harmlessly through the human body, the remote control process will also be able to target and deactivate specific proteins or toxins in the human body. Shining light on the conjugated carbon nanotube
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Contact: Michael Mullaney
mullam@rpi.edu
518-276-6161
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute  
Source:Eurekalert

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