EVANSTON, Ill. --- Nanotechnology offers unique opportunities to advance the life sciences by facilitating the delivery, manipulation and observation of biological materials with unprecedented resolution. The ability to pattern nanoscale arrays of biological material assists studies of genomics, proteomics and cell adhesion, and may be applied to achieve increased sensitivity in drug screening and disease detection, even when sample volumes are severely limited.
Unfortunately, most tools capable of patterning with such tiny resolution were developed for the silicon microelectronics industry and cannot be used for soft and relatively sensitive biomaterials such as DNA and proteins.
Now a team of researchers at Northwestern University has demonstrated the ability to rapidly write nanoscale protein arrays using a tool they call the nanofountain probe (NFP).
"The NFP works much like a fountain pen, only on a much smaller scale, and in this case, the ink is the protein solution," said Horacio Espinosa, head of the research team and professor of mechanical engineering in the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science at Northwestern.
The results, which will be published online the week of Oct. 13 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), include demonstrations of sub-100-nanometer protein dots and sub-200-nanometer line arrays written using the NFP at rates as high as 80 microns/second.
Each nanofountain probe chip has a set of ink reservoirs that hold the solution to be patterned. Like a fountain pen, the ink is transported to sharp writing probes through a series of microchannels and deposited on the substrate in liquid form.
"This is important for a number of reasons," said Owen Loh, a graduate student at Northwestern who co-authored the paper with fellow student Andrea Ho. "By maintaining the sensitive proteins in a liquid buffer, their biological function is less likely
|Contact: Megan Fellman|