Researchers from ITMO University in St. Petersburg have come up with a unique 'transforming nanoparticle' architecture which changes its structure when illuminated by a laser.
The scientists' research, published in the Bioconjugate Chemistry academic journal, combined the best properties of two approaches to the creation of nanoparticles, experimenting with photosensitive nanomaterial technology and a chemical 'switch' method they recently developed.
Using this architecture, ITMO University chemistry professor Ekaterina Skorb and her colleagues created hollow nanoparticles covered by a covering of polymer filaments and granules of titanium oxide and silver. When illuminated with an infrared laser, the structure of the nanoparticle collapses from heat and oxygen, which releases the particle's contents.
Researchers tested out their nanoparticles on bacteria whose DNA was modified to glow when molecules came into contact with artificial sugars which were injected into the nanoparticles. After illuminating these 'nano-grenades' with an infrared laser, the sugars escaped the nanoparticles' membranes, lighting up the bacteria and proving the method's effectiveness. As an important bonus, neither the nanoparticles nor their structural collapse affected the viability of the bacteria's cells.
"This area of research is interesting not only from the perspective of the localized delivery of medicines, but also for the creation of a computer in which biological molecules can be used instead of silicon chips. This will pave the way for high-precision control of chemical processes, 'smart' medicines and the ability to control molecular machines," Dr. Skorb said, as quoted by the Russian Science Foundation's press service.