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ORNL's nanobiosensor technology gives new access to living cells molecular processes

OAK RIDGE, April 27, 2004 -- Researchers at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory have developed a nanoscale technology for investigating biomolecular processes in single living cells. The new technology enables researchers to monitor and study cellular signaling networks, including the first observation of programmed cell death in a single live cell.

The "nanobiosensor" allows scientists to physically probe inside a living cell without destroying it. As scientists adopt a systems approach to studying biomolecular processes, the nanobiosensor provides a valuable tool for intracellular studies that have applications ranging from medicine to national security to energy production.

ORNL Corporate Fellow and Life Sciences Division researcher Tuan Vo-Dinh leads a team of researchers who are developing the nanoscale technology. "This research illustrates the integrated 'nano-bio-info' approach to investigating and understanding these complex cell systems," Vo-Dinh said. "There is a need to explore uncharted territory inside a live cell and analyze the molecular processes. This minimally invasive nanotechnology opens the door to explore the inner world of single cells".

ORNL's work was most recently published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society and has appeared in a feature article of the journal Nature. Members of Vo-Dinh's research team include postdoctoral researchers Paul M. Kasili, Joon Myong Song and research staff biochemist Guy Griffin.

The group's nanobiosensor is a tiny fiber-optic probe that has been drawn to a tip of only 40 nanometers (nm) across--a billionth of a meter and 1,000 times smaller than a human hair. The probe is small enough to be inserted into a cell.

Immobilized at the nanotip is a bioreceptor molecule, such as an antibody, DNA or enzyme that can bind to target molecules of interest inside the cell. Video microscopy experiments reveal the minimally invasive nature of the
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Contact: Bill Cabage
cabagewh@ornl.gov
865-574-4399
DOE/Oak Ridge National Laboratory
27-Apr-2004


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