"Smart" bionanotubes. Lipid protein nanotubes made of microtuble protein (made of tubulin protein subunits shown as red-blue-yellow-green objects) that is coated by a lipid bilayer (drawn with yellow tails and green and white spherical heads) which in turn is coated by tubulin protein rings or spirals. By controlling the relative amount of lipid and protein it is possible to switch between two states of nanotubes with either open ends (shown in the center) or closed ends with lipid caps (shown on the left), a process which forms the basis for controlled chemical and drug encapsulation and release. A top view of the nanotubes and a magnified region is shown on the right. The image was created by Peter Allen.
Materials scientists working with biologists at the University of California, Santa Barbara have developed "smart" bio-nanotubes — with open or closed ends — that could be developed for drug or gene delivery applications.
The nanotubes are "smart" because in the future they could be designed to encapsulate and then open up to deliver a drug or gene in a particular location in the body. The scientists found that by manipulating the electrical charges of lipid bilayer membranes and microtubules from cells, they could create open or closed bio-nanotubes, or nanoscale capsules. The news is reported in an article to be published in the August 9 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It is currently available on-line in the PNAS Early Edition.
The findings resulted from a collaboration between the laboratories of Cyrus R. Safinya, professor of materials and physics and faculty member of the Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology Department, and Leslie Wilson, professor of biochemistry in the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology and the Biomolecular Science and Engineering Program. The first author of the article is Uri Raviv, a post-doctoral researcher in Safinya’s lab and a fellow of the International Human Frontier Science Program Organization. The other co-authors are Daniel J. Needleman, formerly Safinya’s graduate student who is now a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School; Youli Li, researcher in the Materials Research Laboratory; and Herbert P. Miller, staff research associate in the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology.
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