The study will appear this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"Our focus is the development of a bionanotechnology that combines the strengths of nanotechnology and biochemistry to generate a new type of 'bionanomaterial,' which has some unique properties," said Weihong Tan, a UF Research Foundation professor of chemistry and associate director of UF's Center for Research at the Bio/Nano Interface. "Because of these properties, we're able to finish the detection of a single bacterium in 20 minutes."
Bionanotechnology is a new frontier of research that combines two seemingly incompatible materials the building blocks of life and synthetic structures at a tiny, molecular-sized scale. Nanotechnology works with objects that are on the order of 1 to 100 nanometers; a nanometer is one-billionth of a meter, about the size of several atoms. When combined with molecular biology, the possible applications of this nano-frontier are widespread and sound like the stuff of science fiction. Scientists currently are designing microscopic "nanobots", bioprobes and biosensors that, once implanted in the human body, could perform a number of medical duties, from delivering drugs to detecting malignant cells.
Tan's compound materials are called "bioconjugated nanoparticles," a prefix-heavy term that highlights their blended nature. "It's a very simple idea," said Tan. He takes antibodies -- molecules used to seek specific types of bacteria -- and attaches, or "conjugates", them to tiny dye-loaded particles.
"A bioconjugated particle is linked to the antibody, which can recognize a specific type of bacterium," Tan said. "I
Contact: Weihong Tan
University of Florida