Researchers from the University of Cambridge have developed a new self-assembled material, which, by changing its shape, can amplify small variations in temperature and concentration of biomolecules, making them easier to detect. The material, which consists of synthetic spheres 'glued' together with short strands of DNA, could be used to underpin a new class of biosensors, or form the basis for new drug delivery systems.
The interplay between the lipid spheres, called giant vesicles, and the strands of DNA produces a unique response when the material is exposed to changes in temperature. Instead of expanding when heated - as is normally the case - the material contracts, a phenomenon known as negative thermal expansion. Details are published today (7 January) in the journal Nature Communications.
In addition to its role as a carrier of genetic information, DNA is also useful for building advanced materials. Short strands of DNA, dubbed 'sticky ends', can be customised so that they will only bind to specific complementary sequences. This flexibility allows researchers to use DNA to drive the self-assembly of materials into specific shapes.
Basing self-assembled materials around vesicles - synthetic versions of the soft sacs which envelop living cells - allows for even more flexibility, since the vesicles are so easily deformable. Using short DNA tethers with a cholesterol 'anchor' at one end and an exposed sticky DNA sequence at the other, the vesicles can be stuck together. When assembled into a hybrid DNA-lipid network, the DNA tethers can diffuse and rearrange, resulting in massive vesicle shape changes.
Besides negative thermal expansion, the researchers also found that changes in temperature lead to a significant variation in the porosity of the material, which is therefore highly controllable. A similar response is expected by changing the concentration of the DNA tethers, which could also be replaced by other types of ligand-receptor pairs, such as antibodies.
"The characteristics of this material make it suitable for several different applications, ranging from filtration, to the encapsulation and triggered release of drugs, to biosensors," said Dr Lorenzo Di Michele of the University's Cavendish Laboratory, who led the research. "Having this kind of control over a material is like a 'golden ticket' of sensing."
This research is part of the CAPITALS, a UK-wide programme funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). Cambridge Enterprise, the University's commercialisation arm, is currently looking for commercial partners to help develop this material.
Sarah Collins | EurekAlert!
New design improves performance of flexible wearable electronics
23.06.2017 | North Carolina State University
Plant inspiration could lead to flexible electronics
22.06.2017 | American Chemical Society
An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.
Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...
Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.
Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...
Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.
As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...
Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.
With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...
Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine
Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...
19.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.06.2017 | Information Technology