NanoShuttles: Harnessing Motor Proteins to Transport Cargo in Synthetic Environments
Motors have become a crucial commodity in our daily lives, from transportation to driving conveyor belts that enable the sequential assembly of cars and other industrial machines. For the sequential assembly of building blocks at the nanoscale that would not assemble spontaneously into larger functional systems, however, active transport systems are not yet available. In contrast, cells have evolved sophisticated molecular machinery that drives movement and active transport. Driven by the conversion of chemical into mechanical energy, namely through hydrolysis of the biological fuel ATP, molecular motors enable cells to operate far away from equilibrium by transporting organelles and molecules to designated locations within the cell, often against concentration gradients. Inspired by the biological concept of active transport, major efforts are underway to learn how to build nanoscale transport systems that are driven by molecular motors. Emerging engineering principles are discussed of how to build tracks and junctions to guide such nanoshuttles, how to load them with cargo and control their speed, how to use active transport to assemble mesoscopic structures that would otherwise not assemble spontaneously and what polymeric materials to choose to integrate motors into MEMS and other biohybrid devices. Finally, two applications that exploit the physical properties of microtubules are discussed, surface imaging by a swarm of microtubules and a self-assembled picoNewton force meter to probe receptor-ligand interactions.
KeywordsMotor Protein Molecular Motor Persistence Length Kinesin Motor Active Transport System
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