Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors

Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

Home > Press > New Tool Gives Researchers a Glimpse of Biomolecules in Motion

NIST researcher Ted Heilweil, National Research Council postdoctoral fellow Catherine Cooksey (pictured), and NIST Summer Undergraduate Research Fellow Ben Greer from Carnegie Mellon University have demonstrated the feasibility of a new technique for studying biomolecules using terahertz radiation. Because terahertz waves are almost completely absorbed by water, the team was able to reduce the amount of water to the bare minimum while still providing a realistic sample environment by using hollow, nanosized droplets called micelles as tiny test tubes.

Credit: NIST
NIST researcher Ted Heilweil, National Research Council postdoctoral fellow Catherine Cooksey (pictured), and NIST Summer Undergraduate Research Fellow Ben Greer from Carnegie Mellon University have demonstrated the feasibility of a new technique for studying biomolecules using terahertz radiation. Because terahertz waves are almost completely absorbed by water, the team was able to reduce the amount of water to the bare minimum while still providing a realistic sample environment by using hollow, nanosized droplets called micelles as tiny test tubes.

Credit: NIST

Abstract:
The ability of biomolecules to flex and bend is important for the performance of many functions within living cells. However, researchers interested in how biomolecules such as amino acids and proteins function have long had to make inferences from a series of X-ray-like "still pictures" of pure crystalline samples. Now, using a new technique based on terahertz (THz) spectroscopy, scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have recently taken the first step toward revealing the hidden machinations of biomolecules in water.*

New Tool Gives Researchers a Glimpse of Biomolecules in Motion

GAITHERSBURG, MD | Posted on January 13th, 2009

With wavelengths that range from 1 millimeter to 25 micrometers, terahertz radiation falls between the infrared and microwave spectral regions. Researchers can determine how molecules are moving by passing terahertz radiation through a sample and measuring which wavelengths are absorbed. Unfortunately, room temperature water, the medium in which biological molecules typically are studied, absorbs nearly all of the terahertz radiation, limiting the utility of terahertz spectroscopy for probing biomolecular function.

To avoid the water problem, the NIST team needed to find a way to provide a simple but realistic environment for the biomolecules that contained the least amount of water possible. NIST researcher Ted Heilweil, National Research Council postdoctoral fellow Catherine Cooksey and NIST Summer Undergraduate Research Fellow Ben Greer from Carnegie Mellon University found their solution in the form of nanoscale droplets made of soap-like molecules called micelles.

Using the micelles as tiny test tubes, the team filled the hollow molecules with a small sample of water and the amino acid L-proline, a protein building block. Measurements validated their hypothesis that the micelles would provide an aqueous environment that allows the amino acid to flex and bend while limiting the absorption of the terahertz radiation by water. The terahertz measurements on this simple biomolecule compared well with expectations from other studies, further validating the technique.

According to Heilweil, this study is an important first step toward using terahertz radiation for studying biomolecules. More ambitious measurements on larger molecules such as small peptides, proteins, and DNA fragments will be more challenging, but he says it may be possible in the near future.

"If we can get larger molecules in [the micelles], we can get a much better idea of how living molecules function," Heilweil said. "This will let us see the basic, most fundamental building blocks of life as they move, which is very exciting."

* C. Cooksey, B. J. Greer and E. J. Heilweil. Terahertz spectroscopy of l-proline in reverse aqueous micelles. Chemical Physics Letters. Available online Nov. 21, 2008.

####

About NIST
Founded in 1901, NIST is a non-regulatory federal agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce. NIST's mission is to promote U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness by advancing measurement science, standards, and technology in ways that enhance economic security and improve our quality of life.

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Mark Esser

(301) 975-8735

Copyright © NIST

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related Links

"Terahertz spectroscopy of l-proline in reverse aqueous micelles." Chemical Physics Letters

Related News Press

News and information

Graphene key to growing 2-dimensional semiconductor with extraordinary properties August 30th, 2016

University of Akron researchers find thin layers of water can become ice-like at room temperature: Results could lead to an assortment of anti-friction solutions August 30th, 2016

Nanocatalysis for organic chemistry: This research article by Dr. Qien Xu et al. is published in Current Organic Chemistry, Volume 20, Issue 19, 2016 August 30th, 2016

Continuous roll-process technology for transferring and packaging flexible LSI August 29th, 2016

Discoveries

Graphene key to growing 2-dimensional semiconductor with extraordinary properties August 30th, 2016

University of Akron researchers find thin layers of water can become ice-like at room temperature: Results could lead to an assortment of anti-friction solutions August 30th, 2016

Nanocatalysis for organic chemistry: This research article by Dr. Qien Xu et al. is published in Current Organic Chemistry, Volume 20, Issue 19, 2016 August 30th, 2016

Meteorite impact on a nano scale August 29th, 2016

Announcements

Graphene key to growing 2-dimensional semiconductor with extraordinary properties August 30th, 2016

University of Akron researchers find thin layers of water can become ice-like at room temperature: Results could lead to an assortment of anti-friction solutions August 30th, 2016

Nanocatalysis for organic chemistry: This research article by Dr. Qien Xu et al. is published in Current Organic Chemistry, Volume 20, Issue 19, 2016 August 30th, 2016

Meteorite impact on a nano scale August 29th, 2016

Tools

Designing ultrasound tools with Lego-like proteins August 29th, 2016

Nanofiber scaffolds demonstrate new features in the behavior of stem and cancer cells August 25th, 2016

50 years after the release of the film 'Fantastic Voyage,' science upstages fiction: Science upstages fiction with nanorobotic agents designed to travel in the human body to treat cancer August 25th, 2016

University of Puerto Rico and NASA back in the news XEI reports August 23rd, 2016

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE




  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoTech-Transfer
University Technology Transfer & Patents
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More











ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project







Car Brands
Buy website traffic