Home > Press > Computer Models Explore Nano-Machines
|Rotary motor ATP synthase manufactures ATP for the rest of the cell. Credit: Sun Lab / JHU|
"Most molecular motors operate on principles that are very similar to the way the engine in your car works," says Sean Sun, an assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering in the Whiting School of Engineering at Johns Hopkins University and an affiliated faculty member of the Institute for NanoBioTechnology.
"They consist of a flexible protein that performs an action when it burns a fuel molecule."
Computer Models Explore Nano-Machines
Baltimore, MD | Posted on November 13th, 2007
But understanding how nano-sized machines function or how they create forces is not always this straightforward. "In any system in biology, 90 percent of it is unknown," Sun says.
Sun recently encountered many unknowns while conducting computational research on the biological forces generated during the reproduction of single cell organisms. Sun, doctoral student Ganhul Lan and colleague Charles Wolgemuth of the University of Connecticut, have described how a kind of molecular nanomachine called a Z-ring facilitates bacterial cell division.
The team published their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science (Oct. 9, 2007). According to report, the Z-ring produces enough force to pinch the rigid cell wall to initiate division and also helps localize the proteins needed to form a new cell wall between the daughter cells. Exactly how this force is generated is still a mystery.
"Our lab works on nanomachines of all different kinds," Sun says. "The Z-ring is a protein conglomerate ensemble (and) one of the interesting discoveries about the process is that very little force was required to do the job."
Solutions to the puzzles presented by nanomachines can be found by exploiting the synergy between computational models and experimental observations, he says. Sun also draws upon his prior training in chemistry and physics.
"Biology is making a tremendous transition from an observational science into a quantitative science," Sun says. "This is an area where I can really make a contribution"
Computational theories on molecule fueled nanomachines can be tested experimentally in labs like that of INBT's associate director, Denis Wirtz, professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomoleculuar Engineering. "With Denis, we are looking at many of the biochemical details to see if they match up to the computational models," Sun says.
Multidisciplinary collaborations initiated by INBT will shed light on these unknowns, Sun says. "Experiments are crucial in directing where your theories and modeling ought to go…They supply you with parameters. Even if you build equations, there are still unknowns that have never been measured. It is a synergistic process."
About Institute for NanoBioTechnology
The Institute for NanoBioTechnology at Johns Hopkins University will revolutionize health care by bringing together internationally renowned expertise in medicine, engineering, the sciences, and public health to create new knowledge and groundbreaking technologies.
INBT programs in research, education, outreach, and technology transfer are designed to foster the next wave of nanobiotechnology innovation.
Approximately 150 faculty are affiliated with INBT and are also members of the following Johns Hopkins institutions: Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, Whiting School of Engineering, School of Medicine, Bloomberg School of Public Health, and Applied Physics Laboratory.
For more information, please click here
* Institute for NanoBioTechnology
214 Maryland Hall
3400 North Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21218
* Phone: (410) 516-3423
* Fax: (410) 516-2355
Copyright © Institute for NanoBioTechnology
If you have a comment, please Contact
Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.
To learn more about the research under way in Sean Sun’s lab, click here.
To read Sean Sun’s recent paper in PNAS, click here.
To read a recent article about this research from The JHU Gazette, click here.
Optimum inertial design for self-propulsion: A new study investigates the effects of small but finite inertia on the propulsion of micro and nano-scale swimming machines July 29th, 2014
Breakthrough laser experiment reveals liquid-like motion of atoms in an ultra-cold cluster: University of Leicester research team unlocks insights into creation of new nano-materials July 25th, 2014
NIST shows ultrasonically propelled nanorods spin dizzyingly fast July 22nd, 2014
University of Illinois researchers demonstrate novel, tunable nanoantennas July 14th, 2014
CiQUS researchers design an artificial nose to detect DNA differentiation with single nucleotide resolution September 18th, 2014
Big Results Require Big Ambitions: Three young UCSB faculty receive CAREER awards from the National Science Foundation September 18th, 2014
The Pocket Project will develop a low-cost and accurate point-of-care test to diagnose Tuberculosis: ICN2 holds a follow-up meeting of the Project on September 18th - 19th September 18th, 2014
Recruiting bacteria to be technology innovation partners: September 17th, 2014
Wear-resistant ceramic powder maximises component lifespan in high-stress applications: Innovnano’s nanostructured 3YSZ offers improved tribological performance for manufacturing components September 18th, 2014
IEEE International Electron Devices Meeting To Celebrate 60th Anniversary as The Leading Technical Conference for Advanced Semiconductor Devices September 18th, 2014
FEI Opens New Technology Center in Czech Republic: FEI expands its presence in Brno with the opening of a new, larger facility September 18th, 2014
Biosensors Get a Boost from Graphene Partnership: $5 Million Investment Supports Dozens of Jobs and Development of 300mm Fabrication Process and Wafer Transfer Facility September 18th, 2014