Scientists have been able to achieve the smallest antenna ever made at just five nanometers in length. In addition, the antenna's structure is made from DNA which is 20,000 times smaller compared to the size of a human hair. 

Smallest Fluorescent Antenna

According to the story by ScienceAlert, the antenna is also fluorescent, which means that it uses light signals in order to record and report information. These light signals are also being used to study both the movement and change of proteins in real time.

Part of the innovation when it comes to the antenna is how the receiver part is used to sense the molecular surface of the very protein that it is studying. This then results in a distinct signal whenever the protein finally fulfills its own biological function.

How the Antenna Works

Per Alexis Vallée-Bélisle, a chemist from the Université de Montréal (UdeM) in Canada, just like a two-way radio, the fluorescent nanoantenna can receive light in one color or wavelength and transmit light back towards the same color which can be detected. This, however, depends on the protein that it senses.

The job of the antenna is mainly to measure the structural changes within the protein over the course of time. Larger and more complex protein molecules carry out different kinds of essential tasks when it comes to the body. This includes supporting the immune system or even regulating the function of the body's organs.

Scientists' Experimental Study of Protein Transient States

As proteins are doing their jobs, however, they still go through constant changes when it comes to the structure. This happens when proteins are transitioning from state to state within a highly complex process known as protein dynamics.

Per the team's explanation in the paper on Nature, experimental study of the protein transient states still continues to be a major challenge due to high-structural-resolution techniques. This includes nuclear magnetic resonance as well as X-ray crystallography.

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DNA Synthesizing Technology

The latest DNA synthesizing technology took 40 years in development and is also able to produce certain nanostructures of different flexibilities and lengths. This is in order to optimize and likewise to fulfill the main required functions.

One of the main advantages of the nanoantenna is that it is extremely small and built on DNA giving. This gives the nanoantenna the ability to capture short-lived protein states. 

Scott Harron, a chemist from UdeM, has noted that an example of this is when they are able to detect functions of the alkaline phosphatase enzyme with a number of biological molecules in real time for the very first time. In addition, the enzyme has been implicated in a lot of diseases which include a number of cancers and intestinal inflammation.

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Written by Urian B.

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