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Lining up proteins for nanotechnology

The protein engineering pathway to advanced nanotech (see “Protein Bioengineering Overview”, paper 10 of the Productive Nanosystems Roadmap Working Group Proceedings—a 14.6 MB PDF) might benefit if proteins could be arrayed on a surface so that they could be quickly and easily scanned for function or interactions with other molecules. Protein ‘chips’ developed by UK scientists for rapid disease detection and drug discovery might be just what is needed. From the University of Manchester, via AAAS EurekAlertChips are down as Manchester makes protein scanning breakthrough“:

Scientists at The University of Manchester have developed a new and fast method for making biological ‘chips’ — technology that could lead to quick testing for serious diseases, fast detection of MRSA infections and rapid discovery of new drugs.

Researchers working at the Manchester Interdisciplinary Biocentre (MIB) and The School of Chemistry have unveiled a new technique for producing functional ‘protein chips’ in a paper in the Journal of the American Chemical Society [abstract]…

Protein chips — or ‘protein arrays’ as they are more commonly known — are objects such as slides that have proteins attached to them and allow important scientific data about the behaviour of proteins to be gathered.

Functional protein arrays could give scientists the ability to run tests on tens of thousands of different proteins simultaneously, observing how they interact with cells, other proteins, DNA and drugs.

As proteins can be placed and located precisely on a ‘chip’, it would be possible to scan large numbers of them at the same time but then isolate the data relating to individual proteins.

…Existing techniques for attaching proteins often results in them becoming fixed in random orientations, which can cause them to become damaged and inactive.

Current methods also require proteins to be purified first — and this means that creating large and powerful protein arrays would be hugely costly in terms of time, manpower and money.

Now researchers at The University of Manchester say they have found a reliable new way of attaching active proteins to a chip.

Biological chemists have engineered modified proteins with a special tag, which makes the protein attach to a surface in a highly specified way and ensures it remains functional.

The attachment occurs in a single step in just a few hours — unlike with existing techniques — and requires no prior chemical modification of the protein of interest or additional chemical steps.

—Jim

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