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UCLA chemists develop new coating for nanoscale probes

A UCLA-led team of chemists has developed a unique new coating for inorganic particles at the nanoscale that may be able to disguise the particles as proteins -- a process that allows particles to function as probes that can penetrate the cell and light up individual proteins inside, and create the potential for application in a wide range of drug development, diagnostic tools and medications.

The findings will be published in the May 19 edition of the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

The organic coatings -- short chains of stringed amino acids (peptides) -- can be used to disguise particles called "quantum dots," "quantum rods" and "quantum "wires" so effectively that the cells mistake them for proteins, even when the coatings are used on particles that are inorganic and possibly even toxic.

"These peptide coatings serve as 'Halloween costumes' for the particles, and trick the live cell into thinking that the nanoparticles are benign, protein-like entities," said Shimon Weiss, UCLA professor of chemistry and a member of the university's California NanoSystems Institute. "As a result, we can use these coated particles to track the proteins in a live cell and conduct a range of studies at the molecular level, which is a major step toward using nanotechnology to create practical applications for biology and medicine."

Particles made of semiconductors at the nanoscale (one-billionth of a meter, or about one-thousandth the thickness of a human hair) have long found applications in the electronic and information technology industries. For example, the active part of a single transistor on a Pentium silicon chip is a few tenths of a nanometer in size. The semiconductor laser used to read digital information on a CD or DVD has an active layer of similar dimensions.

"Creating the ability to import such electronic functions into the cell and meshing them with biological functions could open tremendous new p
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Contact: Harlan Lebo
hlebo@support.ucla.edu
310-206-0510
University of California - Los Angeles
28-Apr-2004


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