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When proteins, antibodies and other biological molecules kiss, a new kind of biosensor can tell
Date:9/20/2007

hod represents an entirely new application of interferometry, a powerful technique that combines light from multiple sources to make precise measurements. Interferometry is used in everything from astronomy to holography to geodetic surveys to inertial navigation.

The equipment required for the new biosensor is surprisingly modest: a helium-neon laser like those used in grocery store scanners, a mirror, a CCD detector like those used in digital cameras and a special glass microfluidic chip. The chip contains a channel about one fiftieth the size of a human hair. There is a Y at one end that allows the researchers to inject two solutions simultaneously, each containing a different kind of molecule. It is followed by a serpentine section that mixes the two.

Finally, there is a straight observation section where the interactions are measured. An unfocused laser beam is directed through the channel at this point. The beam is reflected back and forth inside the channel about 100 times. Each time the light beam strikes the channel some of the light is transmitted back up to the mirror where it is directed to the detector. There it forms a line of alternating light and dark spots called an interference pattern.

It turns out that the interference pattern is very sensitive to what the molecules are doing. If the molecules begin sticking together, for example, the pattern begins to shift. The stronger the binding force between the molecules, the larger the shift. This allows the system to measure interaction forces that vary a million-fold. That includes the entire range of binding forces found in living systems.

The reason the system works so well is still something of a mystery. The researchers know that it responds to minute changes in the index of refraction, which is a measure of how fast the light travels through the liquid in the chamber compared to its speed in a vacuum. They suspect that it has to do with the rearrangement in the water molecules th
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Contact: David F. Salisbury
david.salisbury@vanderbilt.edu
615-343-6803
Vanderbilt University
Source:Eurekalert

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