David Baer from Minnesota: Unique Folding Mechanism in Synthetic Nanotubes

David Baer from Minnesota: Scientists Assemble Nanotubes from Sequence-defined Peptoids

First things first, this blog will get a little technical, so bear with me as I try to explain things as simply as I can. I’m David Baer, a University of Minnesota biology major. Today, I wanted to write about this breakthrough research by material scientists at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory that can help with water purification and tissue engineering.

In their study, researchers “report a new family of highly designable and dynamic nanotubes assembled from sequence-defined peptoids through a unique “rolling-up and closure of nanosheet” mechanism.” In layman’s terms, peptoids are synthetic polymers or molecular structures that mimic peptides or shorter chains of amino acids. If you’re not into biology, the only takeaway here is that peptoids are more stable and have a wide range of different biomedical applications, including nanotechnology.

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Now for this research, researchers found a way to recreate the microtubule “railway” structure inside cells. Think of these railways as the transport system of cells, helping it during cell division and keeping things inside organized. By recreating these microtubules, the researchers hope to use it in a variety of technical applications, one of which is desalinating water. This is because these microtubules have diameters of only a few billionths of a meter, which is invisible to the human eye!

The researchers at PNNL developed synthetic microtubules that behaved in a unique way. First, the particles would form a sheet and then self-assemble and roll at one end to create a tube. The degree of scientific progress here is outstanding and this is just the beginning of nanotechnology, including microtubules or nanotubes. The unique folding mechanism is the first of its kind I heard about anywhere and researchers anticipate its future use for water filtration, drug delivery, molecular sensing, biological imaging, and nanoelectronics.

Thanks for reading my fascination with biology!

David Baer, Minnesota