Navigation Links
Nano machine switches between biological and silicon worlds

"Frankly, some researchers didn't think what we were attempting was possible," says Dr Keith Firman, at Portsmouth University and Mol-Switch project coordinator, funded under the European Commission's Future and Emerging Technologies initiative. "However, we got our molecular switch to work."

The upshot is that the Mol-Switch project was far more successful than expected. The team's switch works with a number of DNA-based motors and can achieve incredible performance.

Specific sensors, which emit electrons, can tell if the biological motor is working, so the switch links the biological world with the silicon world of electronic signals.

Here's how it works. The team uses a microfluidics chip that includes a number of channels measured in nano-metres. The novelty of microfluidics is that it can channel liquids in laminar, or predictable, flow.

The floor of this channel is peppered with Hall-Effect sensors. The Hall Effect describes how a magnetic field influences an electric current. That influence can be measured to a high degree of accuracy. These measurements link the biological motor with the electronic signals of the silicon world.

The biological element of the device starts with a DNA molecule fixed to the floor of the microfluidic channel. This strand is held upright, like a string held up by a weather balloon, by anchoring the floating end of the DNA strand to a magnetic bead, itself held up under the influence of magnetism.

A specific type of protein, called a Restriction-Modification enzyme, provides one of the DNA motors. This type of DNA motor will only bind to a specific sequence of the DNA bases A, C, G and T. "This binding is very specific, a motor will bind only with its corresponding bases, so you can control exactly where the motor is placed on the vertical DNA strand," says Firman.

The motor is attached to the strand at the specific sequence of bases. Then the team introduces ATP, the phosphat e molecule that provides energy within living cells, into the microfluidics channel. This is the fuel for the motor. The motor then pulls the upright DNA strand through it until it reaches the magnetic bead, like a winch lowering a weather balloon.

A Hall-Effect sensor can measure the vertical movement of the magnetic bead which indicates whether the switch is on or off. That, in an over-simplified nutshell, is the essence of the molecular switch, an actuator for the nano-scale world.

This is particularly important because a nano-scale actuator will be immensely useful. An actuator is a mechanism that supplies and transmits a measured amount of energy for the operation of another mechanism or system. It can be a simple mechanical device, converting various forms of energy to rotating or linear mechanical energy. Or it can convert mechanical action into an electrical signal. It works both ways.

"The light switch, the button that makes a retractable pen, all these are actuators, and by developing a molecular switch we've created a tiny actuator that could be used in an equally vast number of applications," says Firman.

The number of potential applications is staggering. They can be used for flow-control valves, pumps, positioning drives, motors, switches, relays and biosensors.

The system could be used to develop molecular circuits, or even molecular scale mechanical devices. The potential applications are difficult to predict, but are only limited by the imagination of researchers, such is the versatility of an actuator on this scale.

"It could be used as a communicator between the biological and silicon worlds. I could see it providing an interface between muscle and external devices, through its use of ATP, in human implants. Such an application is still 20 or 30 years away," says Firman "It's very exciting and right now we're applying for a patent for the basic concepts."

One hugely important application is DNA sequencing, discovering the order of the four DNA-bases, the absolutely fundamental step for genetic research. This is almost a 'bonus' application, a happy side effect of the actuator's operation.


'"/>

Source:IST Results


Related biology news :

1. Molecular machine may lead to new drugs to combat human diseases
2. Building a protein name dictionary from full text: a machine learning term extraction approach
3. Scientists take aim at virulent bacteria by decoding machinery of key control enzyme
4. Gambling monkeys give insight into neural machinery of risk
5. Clearing jams in copy machinery
6. Largest computational biology simulation mimics life’s most essential nanomachine
7. The closest look ever at the cells machines
8. New insight into machinery of immune cells tentacles
9. MIT seeing machine offers hope to blind
10. Dissecting the machinery of nicotines reward
11. Biologists probe the machinery of cellular protein factories
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:


(Date:6/20/2016)... , June 20, 2016 Securus ... justice technology solutions for public safety, investigation, corrections ... the prisons involved, it has secured the final ... (DOC) facilities for Managed Access Systems (MAS) installed. ... additional facilities to be installed by October, 2016. ...
(Date:6/9/2016)... 2016  Perkotek an innovation leader in attendance control systems is proud to announce ... for employers to make sure the right employees are actually signing in, and to ... ... ... ...
(Date:6/3/2016)... 3, 2016 Das ... Nepal hat ein 44 ... geprägter Kennzeichen, einschließlich Personalisierung, Registrierung und IT-Infrastruktur, ... Produktion und Implementierung von Identitätsmanagementlösungen. Zahlreiche renommierte ... Januar teilgenommen, aber Decatur wurde als konformste ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/24/2016)... , June 24, 2016 Epic Sciences ... detects cancers susceptible to PARP inhibitors by targeting ... cells (CTCs). The new test has already been ... in multiple cancer types. Over 230 ... damage response pathways, including PARP, ATM, ATR, DNA-PK ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... ... June 24, 2016 , ... Researchers at the Universita ... miRNAs in people with peritoneal or pleural mesothelioma. Their findings are the subject of ... now. , Diagnostic biomarkers are signposts in the blood, lung fluid or tissue ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... June 23, 2016 , ... ... to announce the launch of their brand, UP4™ Probiotics, into Target stores nationwide. ... years, is proud to add Target to its list of well-respected retailers. This ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... TORONTO , June 23, 2016 /PRNewswire/ - ... Ontario biotechnology company, Propellon ... the development and commercialization of a portfolio of ... cancers. Epigenetic targets such as WDR5 represent an ... contribute significantly in precision medicine for cancer patients. ...
Breaking Biology Technology: