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Bionanomotors Move Molecules

NSF Award:

Next Generation Biometrics: Achieving Strength in Molecular Recognition and Transport  (Higher Education Policy Commission)

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Researchers at Marshall University and colleagues in Japan have developed a technique in which small beads attach to other biological molecules and move from one part of a surface to another.

This work is important because it demonstrates how bionanomotors may be used to move and manipulate nanoscale molecules.

Bionanomotors are tiny "machines" that occur in nature and convert chemical energy directly into mechanical work. They are about 1/100,000 the width of a human hair. In the lab, Marshall's Eric Blough and colleagues used myosin--a protein found in muscle that is responsible for generating the force of muscle contraction--as a motor, and actin--another protein isolated from muscle--as a carrier. Using a technique to make a pattern of active myosin molecules on a surface, they showed how cargo can be attached to actin filaments and moved from one part of the surface to another. To improve the system, they used bundled actin filaments.

The team also showed they could use light to control the movement of the filaments. For a transport system to work efficiently, the carrier must stop to pick up cargo and stop again when the cargo reaches its destination. To control movement, the researchers introduced a molecule that activates in the presence of light.

The long-range goal of the research is to develop a wide range of nanoscale transport and sensing applications in the biomedical field.

Images (1 of )

  • rendering of actin
  • eric blough
Actin is an important component of bionanomotors.
wikimedia commons
Eric Blough
Ginny Painter, Marshall University

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