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Gold 'nanoplugs' wire up enzymes

UPTON, NY -- Scientists at Hebrew University, Israel, in collaboration with researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory, have devised a way to use gold nanoparticles as tiny electrical wires to plug enzymes into electrodes. The gold "nanoplugs" help align the molecules for optimal binding and provide a conductive pathway for the flow of electrons. The research, described in the March 21, 2003, issue of Science, may yield more sensitive, inexpensive, noninvasive detectors for measuring biological molecules, including, potentially, agents of bioterrorism.

The idea behind the technology, says Brookhaven biologist Jim Hainfeld, who developed the gold nanoparticles and the means of attaching them to other molecules, is to measure the current as an indicator of the number of biological molecules involved in the reaction.

One potential application, developed by the Hebrew University collaborators, is to use sensors made from the enzyme-electrode system to measure blood glucose in diabetic patients. In the Science paper, the authors describe how they used gold nanoparticles to attach a glucose-oxidizing enzyme to an electrode, and then used this bioelectrocatalytic system to measure glucose levels.

"The gold nanoparticle --1.4 nanometers, or billionths of a meter, in diameter -- plays two very important roles," says Hainfeld. "First, it specifically orients the binding of the enzyme to the electrode so it's a very ordered attachment, not random. Second, since gold is a conductor, it provides an electrical path for the flow of electrons."

When the enzyme oxidizes glucose, electrons flow through the gold nanoparticle into the electrode: The higher the current, the higher the level of glucose.

The experimental results indicate that current flowed seven times faster with the "plugged-in" enzyme system than with the normal enzyme using oxygen as an electron acceptor. Previous attempts to wire the enzyme
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Contact: Karen McNulty Walsh
kmcnulty@bnl.gov
631-344-8350
DOE/Brookhaven National Laboratory
20-Mar-2003


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