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24 April 2014 11:45 am ,
Vol. 344 ,
The National Institutes of Health is revising its "two strikes" rule, which allowed researchers only one chance to...
By stabilizing the components of retromers, molecular complexes that act like recycling bins in cells, a recently...
Fossil fuels power modern society by generating heat, but much of that heat is wasted. Semiconductor devices called...
Researchers are gaining insights into what made Supertyphoon Haiyan so powerful and devastating through post-storm...
Millions around the world got a first-hand look at what it was like to be in Tacloban while it was pummeled by...
Major climate data sets have underestimated the rate of global warming in the last 15 years owing largely to poor data...
The tsetse fly is best known as the vector for the trypanosome parasites that cause sleeping sickness and a disease in...
- 24 April 2014 11:45 am , Vol. 344 , #6182
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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."