The team has pioneered work on the use of nanopores—tiny chambers that mimic the ion channels in the membranes of cells—for the detection and identification of a wide range of molecules, including DNA. Ion channels are the gateways by which the cell admits and expels materials like proteins, ions and nucleic acids. The typical ion channel is so small that only one molecule can fit inside at a time.
By tethering gold nanoparticles (large spheres in top image) to the nanopore (violet), the temperature around the nanopore can be changed quickly and precisely with laser light, allowing scientists to distinguish between similar molecules in the pore that behave differently under varied temperature conditions.
Previously, team members inserted a nanopore into an artificial cell membrane, which they placed between two electrodes. With this setup, they could drive individual molecules into the nanopore and trap them there for a few milliseconds, enough to explore some of their physical characteristics.
"A single molecule creates a marked change in current that flows through the pore, which allows us to measure the molecule's mass and electrical charge with high accuracy," says Joseph Reiner, a physicist at VCU who previously worked at NIST. "This enables discrimination between different molecules at high resolution. But for real-world medical work, doctors and clinicians will need even more advanced measurement capability."
A goal of the team's work is to differentiate among not just several types of molecules, but among the many thousands of different proteins and other biomarkers in our bloodstream. For example, changes in protein levels can indicate the onset of disease, but with so many similar molecules in the mix, it is important not to mistake one for another. So the team expanded their measurement capability by attaching gold nanoparticles to engineered nanopores, "which provides another means to discriminate between various molecular species via temperature control," Reiner says.
The team attached gold nanoparticles to the nanopore via tethers made from complementary DNA strands. Gold's ability to absorb light and quickly convert its energy to heat that conducts into the adjacent solution allows the team to alter the temperature of the nanopore with a laser at will, dynamically changing the way individual molecules interact with it.
"Historically, sudden temperature changes were used to determine the rates of chemical reactions that were previously inaccessible to measurement," says NIST biophysicist John Kasianowicz. "The ability to rapidly change temperatures in volumes commensurate with the size of single molecules will permit the separation of subtly different species. This will not only aid the detection and identification of biomarkers, it will also help develop a deeper understanding of thermodynamic and kinetic processes in single molecules."
The team is researching ways to improve semiconductor-based nanopores, which could further expand this new measurement capability.
*J.E. Reiner, J.W.F. Robertson, D.L. Burden, L.K. Burden, A. Balijepalli and J.J. Kasianowicz. Temperature sculpting in yoctoliter volumes. Journal of the American Chemical Society, DOI: 10.1021/ja309892e. Jan. 24, 2013.
Chad Boutin | EurekAlert!
127 at one blow...
18.01.2017 | Stiftung Zoologisches Forschungsmuseum Alexander Koenig, Leibniz-Institut für Biodiversität der Tiere
How gut bacteria can make us ill
18.01.2017 | Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).
Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
05.01.2017 | Event News
18.01.2017 | Materials Sciences
18.01.2017 | Information Technology
18.01.2017 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation