Nano Science and Technology Institute

Man-made Pores Mimic Important Features of Natural Pores

July 17, 2012 09:00 AM EST By: Jennifer Rocha

Inspired by nature, researchers design tiny, synthetic pores that mimic important features of cellular ion channels and other molecular channels.

Story content courtesy of the University of Buffalo, US

An international research team has created synthetic pores that mimic the activity of cellular ion channels, which play a vital role in human health by severely restricting the types of materials allowed to enter cells.  The pores the scientists built are permeable to potassium ions and water, but not to other ions such as sodium and lithium ions.

To create the synthetic pores, the researchers developed a method to force donut-shaped molecules called rigid macrocycles to pile on top of one another. The scientists then stitched these stacks of molecules together using hydrogen bonding. The resulting structure was a nanotube with a pore less than a nanometer in diameter.

The project’s success lays the foundation for an array of exciting new technologies. In the future, scientists could use such highly discerning pores to purify water, kill tumors, or otherwise treat disease by regulating the substances inside of cells.

The research team includes UB scientists and researchers from Beijing Normal University, Jiao Tong University, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and Argonne National Laboratory.

 

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