Nanopores, consisting essentially drilled holes in silicon are tiny measuring instruments that allow the study of molecules and proteins individually. But even the best nanopores developed to date are easily clogged, so that the technology had not yet been widely adopted in laboratories.
To solve this, the team led by Professor Michael Mayer, of the departments of Biomedical Engineering and Chemical Engineering, wrote an oily coating that traps the molecules of interest and facilitates their transit through the nanopores. It also allows researchers to adjust the pore size with almost atomic precision, as revealed in the latest issue of Nature Nanotechnology. "This could help in the diagnosis and improve the understanding of what happens in a category of neurodegenerative disorders including Parkinson's diseases, Huntington's and Alzheimer's."
The "double lipid coating fluid" created by Mayer and his colleagues resembles the coating antenna butterfly male silk that helps you detect the female Butterfly in its environment. The coating capture pheromone molecules in the air and leads through nanotúneles in the exoskeleton to nerve cells that send a message to the brain of the insect.
"These pheromones are lipophilic, ie, likely to bind to lipids or like materials fat. Thus are captured and concentrated at the surface of this lipid coating butterfly silk. The lubricating coating movement pheromones to the place where they should go. Our new coating serves the same purpose, "says Mayer.
One of the main areas of research Mayer has been the study of proteins called beta-amyloid peptides that apparently coagulate and form fibers that "clogging" the brain in patients with Alzheimer's disease.