Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Molecular & Clinical Diagnostics
Scientific Community
 
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article
  News
Return

Designer Piercings: New Membrane Pores with DNA Nanotechnology

Published: Tuesday, November 12, 2013
Last Updated: Tuesday, November 12, 2013
Bookmark and Share
A new way to build membrane-crossing pores, using Lego-like DNA building blocks, has been developed by scientists.

The approach provides a simple and low cost tool for synthetic biology and the technique has potential applications in diagnostic devices and drug discovery. The research is featured in the current issue of the journal Angewandte Chemie.

Membrane pores are the gateways controlling the transport of essential molecules across the otherwise impermeable membranes that surround cells in living organisms. Typically made from proteins, pores of different sizes control the flow of ions and molecules both in and out of the cell as part of an organism's metabolism.

Our understanding of membrane pores comes both from the study of both natural pores, and from equivalent structures built in the lab by synthetic biologists. But synthetic proteins are notoriously difficult to handle due to the complex and often unpredictable ways in which their structures can fold. Even minor protein misfolding changes a protein's properties, meaning that building synthetic pores out of proteins can be risky and time-consuming.

A more straightforward approach is so-called 'rational engineering' using Lego-like DNA building blocks. Although generally known as life's genetic code, DNA strands, which are chemically much simpler than proteins, are far easier and more predictable to work with than proteins. As such they are a useful material for building nanoscale structures in the lab.

"DNA is a construction material that follows very simple rules", said Dr Stefan Howorka (UCL Chemistry). "New nanostructures can be easily designed using a computer programme, and the elements fit together like Lego bricks. So we can build more or less whatever we like."

Using this approach, the team built a tiny tube measuring just 14 nanometres along and 5.5 nanometres across (around 10,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair). This formed the main part of their artificial nanopore. However, to insert the tube into a cell membrane, a key challenge had to be addressed: the water-soluble DNA-based structure will not embed itself into the greasy membrane which is composed of lipids.

To overcome this, the scientists chemically attached to the DNA tube two large anchors, made of molecules which have a natural affinity for lipids. These structures were then able to embed the tube into the membrane. These structures, which are based on naturally derived porphyrins, were designed by a group led by Dr Eugen Stulz (University of Southampton).

"Porphyrin molecules have ideal characteristics for our purposes," Stulz explains. "They are a strong membrane anchor, which locks the nanopore securely into the lipid membrane. In addition, they are fluorescent, which means they are easy to see and study. This makes them superior to other technologies."

The pores were characterised with electrical and fluorescence measurements in collaboration with Dr Ulrich Keyser (Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge).

The simplicity of self-assembling a structure with only two anchors (previous studies used 26 or even 72 such anchors) greatly streamlines the design and synthesis of nanopores.

"In future, this new process will enable us to tailor DNA nanopores for a much wider range of applications than are currently possible," Keyser says.

The ability to create synthetic channels through lipid membranes enables numerous applications in the life sciences. In the first instance, DNA nanopores are of great interest for biosensing, such as rapid DNA analysis.

But tailored pores can also be expected to aid the development of new drugs. Prototype drugs are typically designed to affect a biological target, but are not engineered to cross the cell membrane. Self-assembled pores provide a route for drugs to pass into cells, allowing for much faster pre-clinical screening for activity.


Further Information

Join For Free

Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 3,200+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 4,700+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters


Sign In



Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into TechnologyNetworks.com you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

New Variant of Streptococcal Bacteria
Scientists have discovered a new variant of streptococcal bacteria that has contributed to a rise in disease cases in the UK over the last 17 years.
Wednesday, July 15, 2015
New Biomarkers To Spot Pancreatic Cancer Early
A combination of two biomarkers can identify pre-clinical pancreatic cancer.
Thursday, February 05, 2015
Raman Spectroscopy May Enable Non-Invasive Diagnosis of Bone Diseases
Detection of a genetic ‘brittle bone’ disease known as Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI) is possible by simply scanning a patient’s limbs.
Wednesday, December 03, 2014
Scientific News
Some Women With PCOS May Have Adrenal Disorder
Researchers at NIH have found that a subgroup of women with PCOS, a leading cause of infertility, may produce excess adrenal hormones.
Faster Detection of Pathogens in the Lungs
Thanks to new molecular-based methods, mycobacterial pathogens that cause pulmonary infections or tuberculosis can now be detected much more quickly.
Proteins in Blood of Heart Disease Patients May Predict Adverse Events
Nine-protein test shown superior to conventional assessments of risk.
£14m EU Project To Aid Meningitis Diagnosis and Cut Antibiotic Use
An international team of doctors are aiming to develop a rapid test to allow medics to quickly identify bacterial infection in children.
Bringing AFM to Medical Diagnostics
Company has announced that its NanoWizard® AFM and ForceRobot® systems are being used in the field of medical diagnostics in the Supersensitive Molecular Layer Laboratory of POSTECH in Korea.
Scientific Gains May Make Electronic Nose the Next Everyday Device
UT Dallas team breathes new life into possibilities by using CMOS integrated circuits technology.
Electronic Sensor Tells Dead Bacteria From Live
The sensor, which measures 'osmoregulation', is a potential future tool for medicine and food safety.
Diagnosing Systemic Infections Quickly, Reliably
Team develop rapid and specific diagnostic assay that could help physicians decide within an hour whether a patient has a systemic infection and should be hospitalized for aggressive intervention therapy.
A Future Tool for Medicine, Food Safety
A new type of electronic sensor that might be used to quickly detect and classify bacteria for medical diagnostics and food safety has passed a key hurdle by distinguishing between dead and living bacteria cells.
Genome Sequencing Helps Determine End of TB Outbreak
Using genome sequencing, researchers from the University of British Columbia, along with colleagues at the Imperial College in London, now have the ability to determine when a tuberculosis (TB) outbreak is over.
SELECTBIO

SELECTBIO Market Reports
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
 
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
3,200+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
4,700+ scientific videos
Close
Premium CrownJOIN TECHNOLOGY NETWORKS PREMIUM FOR FREE!