Academia Sinica researchers develop ‘molecular dam’ for trapping proteins

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

Thu, Jan 24, 2013 - Page 4

Academia Sinica researchers yesterday announced a new approach of using a “molecular dam” to enhance the mass transport of protein molecule enrichment, which could help accelerate the detection of disease in the preliminary stages.

Since there are no methods to enlarge or multiply protein molecules enrichment — concentrating or gathering the molecules — must be done before before conducting analysis on protein molecules of lower concentration or quantity, Chou Chia-fu (周家復), a research fellow at Academia Sinica’s Institute of Physics, told a press conference at the National Science Council.

Since the enrichment process often takes a lot of time, Chou’s team has developed a “molecular dam” to enhance the speed of enrichment to a single location, for a faster and more accurate detection of the protein.

The team, using an electrokinetic technique, developed a nano-constriction device with insulating material, which works like a dam in water and traps the targeted protein molecules, Chou said.

Team member Liao Kuo-tang (廖國棠) said other approaches to protein enrichment operations for concentrating a protein to 100,000 times could take about 30 minutes to an hour, the team’s approach can achieve the same results in just 20 seconds.

The nanoscale molecular dam opens up possibilities for more rapid and sensitive protein analysis and biomarker discovery, and also potential applications in bio-medicine or drug development, Chou said.

The team is now trying to apply the approach to rapid detection and early diagnosis of acute myocardial infarction, he said, adding the technique might contribute to the earlier diagnosis of cancers, such as prostate and liver cancer.