by nature, 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.
pores the scientists built are permeable to potassium ions and water, but not
to other ions such as sodium and lithium ions.
kind of extreme selectivity, while prominent in nature, is unprecedented for a
synthetic structure, said University at Buffalo chemistry professor Bing Gong,
PhD, who led the study.
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.
idea for this research originated from the biological world, from our hope to
mimic biological structures, and we were thrilled by the results,” Gong
said. “We have created the first quantitatively confirmed synthetic water
channel. Few synthetic pores are so highly selective.”
will appears in Nature Communications.
study’s lead authors are Xibin Zhou of Beijing Normal University; Guande Liu of
Shanghai Jiao Tong University; Kazuhiro Yamato, postdoctoral scientist at UB;
and Yi Shen of Shanghai Jiao Tong University and the Shanghai Institute of
Applied Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences. Other institutions that
contributed to the work include the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Argonne
National Laboratory. Frank Bright, a SUNY Distinguished Professor of chemistry
at UB, assisted with spectroscopic studies.
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.
nanotube can be viewed as a stack of many, many rings,” said Xiao Cheng
Zeng, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Ameritas University Professor of
Chemistry, and one of the study’s senior authors. “The rings come together
through a process called self-assembly, and it’s very precise. It’s the first
synthetic nanotube that has a very uniform diameter. It’s actually a
sub-nanometer tube. It’s about 8.8 A.”
next step in the research is to tune the structure of the pores to allow
different materials to selectively pass through, and to figure out what
qualities govern the transport of materials through the pores, Gong said.
Source: University at Buffalo