His research strips out all peripheral equipment by using an altogether unique and different approach: biologically powered molecular forklifts.
The forklifts are assembled from natural motor proteins that are active in cell division. Hess and his team's main innovation is manipulating these tiny proteins to perform heavy lifting and transport tasks -- tasks that lead to a successful assay.
For a system rooted in biology, the process is uncannily mechanical.
Using standard laboratory methods, the researchers squirt the forklifts into the central zone of three-zone circular surface no larger than the period at the end of this sentence. They then attach the same antibodies used in traditional chip-based labs.
When the surface is exposed to a contaminant, the antibodies latch onto it, just as happens with traditional assays. But then, activated by a flash of light, molecular shuttles start pushing the forklifts into a second zone, where they load aboard fluorescent particles, or tags. They move their cargo to the third zone, at the edge of the circle. There, over several hours, they crowd against each other, accumulating to the point where their combined loads form a line visible under magnification and providing the telltale indicator of the contaminant.
The process requires no rinsing. And instead of electricity, the naturally derived forklifts are powered by adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, the molecule that carries energy for cells.
"You have replaced all this washing with this active transport by molecular shuttles, so you don't need a pump or battery," Hess said.
Michael Sailor, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of California San Diego and prominent smart-dust researcher, called the research "quite promising."
"The key advance is that the authors incorporate a transport
|Contact: Henry Hess|
University of Florida