Successfully made the world's smallest antenna

Researchers at the University of Montreal (UdeM) created a nanoantenna 20,000 times smaller than a human hair to track the movement of proteins.

Picture 1 of Successfully made the world's smallest antenna
Fluorescent nanoantennas are used in protein research.

In a study published December 30, 2021 in the journal Nature Methods, Scott Harroun, a doctoral student in chemistry at UdeM, and colleagues say that antennas are a new way to monitor structural changes. of proteins over time, helping scientists better understand natural nanotechnology and human design.

More than 40 years ago, researchers invented the first DNA synthesis machine to create molecules that encode genetic information. "In recent years, chemists have realized the possibility of using DNA to make a wide range of structures and nanomachines. Inspired by DNA's Lego-like character with building blocks 20,000 smaller than a human hair times, we created a DNA-based fluorescent nanoantenna that helps describe the function of proteins.Just like two-way radios can receive and transmit radio waves, fluorescent nanoantennas receive light at one color, or step. waves, and depending on the motion of the protein, it transmits light back in a different color for us to detect," the team said.

One of the major innovations in nanoantennas is that the antenna's receiver is fitted with a sensor to sense the molecular surface of a protein through molecular interactions. The main advantage of using DNA to make nanoantennas is that the chemistry of DNA is relatively simple and easy to program, according to Harroun.

Nanoantennas can be synthesized with different wavelengths to optimize their function. The researchers can easily bind the fluorescent molecule to DNA, and then link the fluorescent nanoantenna to a nanobiological machine like an enzyme. By carefully tweaking the design, the team created a 5-nanometer-long nanoantenna that emits a characteristic signal when the protein performs a biological function.

In addition to helping researchers understand how natural nanomachines work or fail to cause disease, the method also helps chemists identify new drugs and guide nanoengineers in the development of machines. What excites the team most is that many laboratories equipped with spectrometers can use nanoantennas to track their favorite proteins, thereby identifying new drugs or developing new nanotechnology.