Nanotechnology uses molecular motor to reveal presence of single DNA molecule

One intriguing road toward productive nanosystems is the integration of molecular motors derived from biology with other nanotech structures and devices. The 2003 Foresight Institute Feynman Prize in Nanotechnology for experimental work was awarded “for pioneering research into methods of integrating single molecule biological motors with nano-scale silicon devices”. Now another researcher has adopted a similar approach to pursue a near-term nanotech solution to an important set of problems. Nanotechnology may enable faster and more sensitive detection of disease by using a molecular motor to spin a gold nanorod in the presence of the right DNA molecule to connect the motor molecules to the nanorod. From “Biosensing nanodevice to revolutionize health screenings“:

One day soon a biosensing nanodevice developed by Arizona State University researcher Wayne Frasch may eliminate long lines at airport security checkpoints and revolutionize health screenings for diseases like anthrax, cancer and antibiotic resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

Even more incredible than the device itself, is that it is based on the world’s tiniest rotary motor: a biological engine measured on the order of molecules.

Frasch works with the enzyme F1-adenosine triphosphatase, better known as F1- ATPase. This enzyme, only 10 to 12 nanometers in diameter, has an axle that spins and produces torque. This tiny wonder is part of a complex of proteins key to creating energy in all living things, including photosynthesis in plants. F1-ATPase breaks down adenosine triphosphate (ATP) to adenosine diphosphate (ADP), releasing energy.…

What Frasch and his colleagues show is that the enzyme can be armed with an optical probe (gold nanorod) and manipulated to emit a signal when it detects a single molecule of target DNA. This is achieved by anchoring a quiescent F1-ATPase motor to a surface. A single strand of a reference biotinylated DNA molecule is then attached to its axle. The marker protein, biotin, on the DNA is known to bind specifically and tightly to the glycoprotein avidin, so an avidin-coated gold nanorod is then added. The avidin-nanorod attaches to the biotinylated DNA strand and forms a stable complex.…

Coverage that includes an illustration: “DNA detection with a twist“. The research was published in Lab on a Chip (abstract).

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