In groundbreaking research, scientists have demonstrated the ability to strategically attach gold nanoparticles — particles on the order of billionths of a meter — to proteins so as to form sheets of protein-gold arrays. The nanoparticles and methods to create nanoparticle-protein complexes can be used to help decipher protein structures, to identify functional parts of proteins, and to “glue” together new protein complexes. Applications envisioned by the researchers include catalysts for converting biomass to energy and precision “vehicles” for targeted drug delivery.
Understanding the functions of proteins often requires knowing their 3-D structures. But deciphering a protein’s structure is a time-consuming and difficult task, typically requiring crystallizing the proteins and bombarding them with x-rays. What’s more, scientists have not been able to crystallize thousands of proteins, so their structures remain unknown.
A far better option would be an analytic method that allowed biologists to directly determine protein structures. Conventional MRI can make out features down to three micrometers. Now IBM researchers demonstrate a resolution of 90 nanometers, a milestone toward their eventual goal of imaging individual protein molecules, which are roughly three to ten nanometers in size.
Read the article at Technology Review site.