New gene therapy procedures, DNA-based sensors, and other medical applications may be possible using a new method to initiate and control chemical reactions on DNA strands, developed by a team of chemists at the U.S. Department of Energys Argonne National Laboratory. The new technology uses specially designed nanometer-sized semiconductors--less than a billionth of an inch in size.
The technology is based on the groups discovery of "conductive linkers"--small organic molecules that connect the electronic properties of semiconductors to biological or organic molecules. The scientists have used conductive linkers to connect strands of DNA to titanium dioxide crystals measuring only 4.5 nanometers in diameter (a nanometer is about 10,000 times narrower than a human hair).
In the presence of light, a titanium dioxide nanocrystal acts as a semiconductor, generating strong oxidizing power that attacks organic molecules in the same uncontrollable way that laundry bleach attacks all colors in the wash. The researchers found that by using different conductive linkers they can selectively control oxidation.
Katie Williams | EurekAlert!
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