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17 April 2014 12:48 pm ,
Vol. 344 ,
Officials last week revealed that the U.S. contribution to ITER could cost $3.9 billion by 2034—roughly four times the...
An experimental hepatitis B drug that looked safe in animal trials tragically killed five of 15 patients in 1993. Now,...
Using the two high-quality genomes that exist for Neandertals and Denisovans, researchers find clues to gene activity...
A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that humanity has done little to slow...
Astronomers have discovered an Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of a red dwarf—a star cooler than the sun—500...
Three years ago, Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University proposed that a warming Arctic was altering the behavior of the...
- 17 April 2014 12:48 pm , Vol. 344 , #6181
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New Biosensor Does Molecular Flash Dance
6 February 1998 8:00 pm
Scientists have developed a molecular flashbulb that's timed to go off when two molecules embrace. The finding, reported in today's issue of Science, could someday lead to ultrasensitive methods for screening potential drugs or fragments of pathogens in the blood and other bodily fluids.
To try to develop a more sensitive probe for isolating individual peptides--short strands of amino acids--from a pool of similar molecules, a team led by chemist Clark Still of Columbia University 4 years ago synthesized small organic compounds that selectively fish out peptides dissolved in chloroform. In their latest work, Still's team strung these molecules, called chemosensors, with a molecule called a fluorophore that glows when the sensor alters its shape after binding to a peptide. According to Still, the flash of just a single bound pair is bright enough to be seen by the naked eye--making it at least 300% more sensitive than previous chemosensors.
But the sensor has a major shortcoming that prevents it from being used to detect biologically important peptides--such as neurotransmitters or fragments of viral coat proteins--in biological samples: It doesn't work in water, the milieu of life. Still says he hopes to overcome this hurdle soon. Nevertheless, the new sensor is "quite an achievement," says Roger Tsien, a neurobiologist at the University of California, San Diego. "It's a conceptual breakthrough," adds chemist Paul Bartlett of the University of California, Berkeley, that "will turn on a lot of light bulbs."