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Biomolecular Motor Nanotechnology/BioMEMS Immunoassay

Sponsor: DARPA, NSF CBET, Coulter Foundation

In recent years, biomolecular motors (BMMs) – highly efficient molecular machines that nature has evolved for over millions of years – have been employed in miniaturized analysis systems and play important roles in bionanotechnology applications, such as biosensing, molecular sorting, fluidic pumping, micromechanical powering, and molecular assembly. They are compact with a nanometer size, yield robust movement in a fluidic environment, and are readily fueled by adenosine triphosphate (ATP) containing solution. This eliminates the need for an external energy source for micro/nanofluidic actuation. In addition, BMMs efficiently manipulate individual biological molecules and proteins, making possible the development of a motor protein-based biosensing system with a nanoscale mass transport/concentration function.

This research aims to develop a new biosensing chip technology, namely the biomolecular motor (BMM) smart microarrays, which allows high-throughput, ultrasensitive (at attomolar concentrations) biosensing for multiplexed on-chip protein binding assays. Incorporating a BMM-based mass transport/sensing mechanism in a microfluidic system, the BMM smart microarrays enable autonomous sample handling that involves specific binding, sorting, transporting, and concentrating of multiple target analytes via kinesin motor protein-driven microtubules. The proposed method combines biomolecular motors, photonics and nanofluidics in a single biosensor to simultaneously transport and concentrate large numbers of molecular analytes (10 – 100) to specific detectors for ultra-sensitive quantification.

Design of biomolecular motor-based detector cell. (a) Schematic overview and SEM image of the detector cell, (b) Detailed structure and functional concept of the collector region of the cell. Bioconjugated microtubules land in the sorter regions and are transported by kinesin toward the collector region. (c) Representative time sequence demonstrating the rapid collection of microtubules in the detector cell. After 40 min of operation, the MT density in the collector region (d) is approximately 2 orders of magnitude higher than that on bare glass without microstructures. This microtubule concentrating effect is quantitatively demonstrated in (d) by comparing the microtubule density in our microfabricated detector cell with a bare glass surface as a function of time.


C.T. Lin, M.T. Kao, K. Kurabayashi, and E. Meyhofer, “Self-contained biomolecular motor-driven protein sorting and concentrating in an ultrasensitive microfluidic chip” Nano Lett., 8, 1041-1046, 2008.

C.T. Lin, M.T. Kao, E. Meyhofer, and K. Kurabayashi, “Surface Landing of Microtubule Nanotracks Influenced by Lithographically Patterned Channels,” Appl. Phys. Lett., 95, 103701, 2009.

C.T. Lin, E. Meyhofer, and K. Kurabayashi, “Predicting the stochastic guiding of kinesin-driven microtubules in microfabricated tracks: A statistical-mechanics-based modeling approach,” Phys. Rev. E., 81, 011919, 2010.


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