Engineers Have Built Tiny Tweezers Capable Of Grabbing Individual Biomolecules
Researchers from Vanderbilt University have developed the world’s first ‘nanotweezers’ capable of grasping the tiniest of objects without damaging them.
The tweezers mark a huge advancement in biological research and what experts are able to achieve now they’re able to handle objects such as biomolecules and individual proteins, according to the paper published in Nature Nanotechnology.
Micron-scale optical tweezers, the previous flagship technology in picking up tiny things, were limited to objects the size of a mere single red blood cell. Pathetic if you ask us.
Micron-scale optical tweezers work using highly focused lasers that can trap and move tiny objects, but the breakthrough nanotechnology allows researchers to handle individual proteins, viruses and DNA.
The new technique opens up new research possibilities for those wishing to study extra tiny molecules, as costly and difficult-to-access centrifuges were the only option for isolating matter this small. Opening up the technology for teams with smaller budgets is likely to yield more research into the area.
Justus Ndukaife, assistant professor of electrical engineering at Vanderbilt University and leader of the project, said:
We have developed a strategy that enables us to tweeze extremely small objects without exposing them to high-intensity light or heat that can damage a molecule’s function.
The ability to trap and manipulate such small objects gives us the ability to understand the way our DNA and other biological molecules behave in great detail, on a singular level.
The technology built on the 2018 Nobel Prize-winning work of Arthur Ashkin, the physicist who first developed optical tweezers.
Looking into the future, Ndukaife said ‘the sky is the limit’ when it comes to the application of the nanotweezers, and he looks forward to seeing how others make good use of his hard work.
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