Chemists from the Université de Montréal created a nano-scale antenna that uses synthetic DNA to track structural changes in proteins in real-time.
It receives one color of light and, depending on the interaction with the protein it detects, transmits a different color of light back, which may be detected.
The technology could be useful in the development of novel nanotechnologies and drug discovery.
DNA holds all of an organism's instructions for development, survival, and reproduction. Thanks to the self-assembly of DNA building components, life's blueprint is also very adaptable.
Scientists can create all kinds of nanostructures for more complex applications than ever before using short, synthetic DNA strands that work like interlocking Lego bricks.
These include "smart" medical devices that selectively target medications to illness areas, programmable imaging probes, templates for accurately arranging inorganic materials in the fabrication of next-generation computer circuits, and more.
The Canadian researchers, led by chemistry professor Alexis Vallée-Bélisle, developed a DNA-based fluorescent nanoantenna that can evaluate protein function based on these features.
“Like a two-way radio that can both receive and transmit radio waves, the fluorescent nanoantenna receives light in one color, or wavelength, and depending on the protein movement it senses, then transmits light back in another color, which we can detect,” Professor Vallée-Bélisle said.
The nanoantenna's receiver interacts chemically with chemicals on the target proteins' surfaces. When the protein performs a specific biological function, the 5-nanometer-long antenna emits a particular signal that can be identified using the light emitted by the DNA structure.
For a variety of applications, these nanoantennas may be simply adjusted to maximize their performance and size. For example, you may link a fluorescent molecule to manufactured DNA and then attach the entire arrangement to an enzyme to investigate its biological activity.
Furthermore, these ingenious DNA-based robots are ready to use in almost every research facility on the planet. Vallée-Bélisle is presently establishing a company to bring this product to market.