Scientists Develop World's Smallest Antenna Made Of DNA. It Works Like A Two-Way Radio

Scientists Develop World’s Smallest Antenna Made Of DNA. It Works Like A Two-Way Radio

New Delhi: Scientists from the Université de Montréal (UdeM) have created a nanoantenna to monitor the motions of proteins. It is the smallest antenna in the world and has been made using DNA.

The study was recently published in the journal, Nature Methods.

The device is a new method to monitor the structural change of proteins over time, and may help scientists better understand natural and human-designed nanotechnologies, according to the study.

Professor Alexis Vallée-Bélisle, senior author of the study, said the results are so exciting that the scientists are currently working on setting up a start-up company to commercialise and make the nanoantenna available to most researchers and the pharmaceutical industry, according to a statement issued by UdeM.

The Antenna Works Like A Two-Way Radio

Researchers invented the first DNA synthesiser to create molecules that encode genetic information, more than 40 years ago.

Vallée-Bélisle said scientists, in recent years, have realised that DNA can also be employed to build a variety of nanostructures and nanomachines.

He said the scientists have created a DNA-based fluorescent nanoantenna that can help characterise the function of proteins. It is inspired by the ‘Lego-like’ properties of DNA, having building blocks that are 20,000 times smaller than a human hair.

The antenna functions as a two-way radio, which can both receive and transmit radio waves.

Vallée-Bélisle explained that the nanoantenna receives light in one colour or wavelength. It subsequently transmits light back in another colour, depending on the protein movement it senses. The transmitted light is detectable.

Scott Harroun, lead author of the study, said that one of the main advantages of using DNA to engineer these nanoantennas is that DNA chemistry is relatively simple and programmable.

He said the DNA-based nanoantennas can be synthesised with different lengths and flexibilities to optimise their function.

A fluorescent molecule can be easily attached to the DNA. Subsequently, the fluorescent nanoantenna can be attached to a biological nanomachine, such as an enzyme.

How Does The Antenna Function?

The researchers have created a five nanometer-long antenna that produces a distinct signal when the protein is performing its biological function, Harroun said.

The scientists believe that fluorescent nanoantennas open many exciting avenues in biochemistry and nanotechnology.

Harroun said the study marked the first time the function of the enzyme alkaline phosphatase with a variety of biological molecules and drugs was detected in real-time.

The enzyme has been implicated in many diseases, including various cancers and intestinal inflammation.

Dominic Lauzon, a co-author of the study, said the new method can help scientists understand how natural nanomachines function or malfunction, consequently leading to disease, and can help chemists identify promising new drugs as well as guide nano-engineers to develop improved nanomachines.

The nanoantennas are easy to use.

Vallée-Bélisle said the nanoantenna can be equipped with a conventional spectrofluorometer to study proteins, and identify new drugs.

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