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posted by Fnord666 on Wednesday September 27, @07:36PM   Printer-friendly
from the round-em-up dept.

A discovery by Princeton University scientists, reported Aug. 2 in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, demonstrates that humans don't have the monopoly on building the world's tiniest machines. The Princeton researchers found a lasso-shaped bacterial molecule capable of altering its configuration when exposed to heat, a shape-changing ability akin to that used to operate certain synthetic molecular machines. The lasso is a type of molecular chain known as a peptide.

"The discovery of this lasso peptide, which we named benenodin-1, demonstrates that we might look to biology as well as engineering for source material in developing molecular devices," said A. James Link, an associate professor of chemical and biological engineering at Princeton who was the senior author on the paper.

While the applications are still mostly speculative, the potential uses for molecular machines are enormous, spanning everything from microrobots that deliver drugs in the human body to new types of materials that adapt in real time to environmental changes such as fluctuations in heat, light or moisture.

A naturally occurring switching mechanism has tantalizing possibilities for organic technology.

Chuhan Zong et al. Lasso Peptide Benenodin-1 Is a Thermally Actuated [1]Rotaxane Switch, Journal of the American Chemical Society (2017). DOI: 10.1021/jacs.7b04830


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  • (Score: 2, Funny) by c0lo on Wednesday September 27, @08:02PM (2 children)

    by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday September 27, @08:02PM (#574002)

    A naturally occurring switching mechanism has tantalizing possibilities for organic technology.

    Tantalizing... sounds like "creating a deposition of tantalum on a surface" - what's so exciting?

    (grin)

    • (Score: 4, Touché) by bob_super on Wednesday September 27, @08:38PM

      by bob_super (1357) on Wednesday September 27, @08:38PM (#574029)

      > what's so exciting?

      A quantum of energy. That's exciting.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 28, @04:31AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 28, @04:31AM (#574211)

      It's the possibility of discovering an all-natural router!

      On a more serious note the nature is full of these wonders. We just need to discover them before we make species extinct... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biomimicry [wikipedia.org]

  • (Score: 2) by istartedi on Thursday September 28, @07:37AM

    by istartedi (123) on Thursday September 28, @07:37AM (#574273)

    The gender of an alligator is determined by egg temperature [chicagotribune.com]. I wonder if this molecule or another undiscovered temperature-based switching molecule is responsible, or if it's more complicated than that.

  • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Thursday September 28, @05:12PM

    by DannyB (5839) on Thursday September 28, @05:12PM (#574437)

    Switches should not be made too tiny if you want most of the population to be able to operate them. Tiny switches require tiny hands.

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