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News

EU supports research towards the construction of nanomotors

Max Planck Society : 09 November, 2006  (Technical Article)
Within an initiative aimed at supporting visionary research projects, the European Union has set aside research funds for the development of biological nanomotors. An international consortium of scientists, co-ordinated by Prof. Helmut Grubm
Prof. Helmut Grubmüller and EU co ordinator Dr. Joachim Bormann in the department's computer centre, where 980 PC processors are linked up in a Linux cluster.

Nanotechnology is one of the most important technologies of the future. This field embraces research, handling, and production of objects and structures in the size range below 100 nanometres (a nanometre is a millionth of a millimetre), the boundary where living and non-living Nature meet. It thus includes the development of biological 'working parts', as a prerequisite for their technological application. A promising interdisciplinary approach combines research methods of biology, physics, chemistry, computing, system theory and engineering into a 'synthetic biology'.

The EU has also recognised this, and has started up the New and Emerging Science and Technology programme, an initiative aimed at supporting unconventional and visionary research in this field. An international consortium, co-ordinated by Prof. Helmut Grubmüller, has now been awarded funding for a research plan to pioneer the tailored development and production of artificial systems according to the blueprints

of biological functional units. Their ambitious project NANOMOT aims at developing nanomotors, and at joining up them and their components in a system resembling a construction kit.

The idea of a nanomotor of this kind is based upon biological machines such as the 'tail' (flagellum) of many bacteria, which is driven by a flagellar motor and thus propels the bacterium forwards. A motor complex, running on ion flux, produces the rotational movement of the flagellum, which is fixed to an 'axle'. Another example is the 'packaging' of DNA (the substance in which genetic information is stored) into viral coats by a biological nanomotor with a rotating axis.

Nano-components of this kind are expected to be applied in the production of DNA, protein and antibody chips as miniaturised platforms for use in molecular-biological and molecular-medical tests and in targeted medicines with fewer side effects.
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