The ultra small nanoreactors have walls made of lipids. During their fusion events volumes of one billionth of a billionth of a liter were transferred between nanoreactors allowing their cargos to mix and react chemically. We typically carried out a million of individual chemical reactions per square centimeter in not more than a few minutes.
Researchers at the University of Copenhagen
are behind the development of a new method that will make it possible to
develop drugs faster and greener. This will lead to cheaper medicine for
Over the last five years the Bionano Group at the Nano-Science Center
and the Department of Neuroscience and Pharmacology at the University of Copenhagen
has been working hard to characterize and test how molecules react, combine
together, and form larger molecules, which can be used in the development of
The researchers’ breakthrough, as published in Nature
Nanotechnology, is that they are able to work with reactions that take
place in very small volumes, namely 10 to 19 L. This is a billion times smaller
than anyone has managed to work with before. Even more intriguing is the
ability to do so in parallel for millions of samples on a single chip.
“We are the first in the world to demonstrate that it
is possible to mix and work with such small amounts of material. When we reach
such unprecedented small volumes we can test many more reactions in parallel
and that is the basis for the development of new drugs. In addition, we have
reduced our use of materials considerably and that is beneficial to both the
environment and the pocketbook,” says Professor Dimitrios Stamou, who
predicts that the method will be of interest to industry because it makes it possible
to investigate drugs faster, cheaper and greener.
The technique makes
The team of Stamou reached such small scales because they are working with
self-assembling systems. Self-assembling systems, such as molecules, are biological
systems that organize themselves without outside control.
This occurs because some molecules fit with certain other
molecules so well that they assemble together into a common structure.
Self-assembly is a fundamental principle in nature and occurs at all the
different size scales, ranging from the formation of solar systems to the
folding of DNA.
“By using nanotechnology we have been able to observe
how specific self-assembling systems, such as biomolecules, react to different
substances and have used this knowledge to develop the method. The
self-assembling systems consist entirely of biological materials such as fat
and as a result do not impact the environment, in contrast to the materials
commonly used in industry today (plastics, silicon, and metals). This and the
dramatic reduction in the amount of used materials makes the technique more
environment friendly, ‘greener’,” explains Dimitrios Stamou, who is part
of the Synthetic Biology Center
and director of the Lundbeck Center Biomembranes in Nanomedicine.