PORTLAND, Ore. Clathrin, a protein found in every cell of the human body, could become a self-assembler of future information processing systems that are smaller, faster and cheaper than today's computer circuitry, according to a company investigating the technology.
Boston-based ExQor Technologies said it has demonstrated that the material can be formed into nano-sized biolasers suitable for transmitting information. It expects the technology will initially be used in medical applications. The precision of clathrin's self-assembly process, and ultra-small size also could be used to improve solar cells and batteries with nanoscale electronic and photonic properties not possible with silicon.
|Clathrin, a star-shaped molecule, self-assembles into nanoscale spheres that lase.|
"Our clathrin scaffolding applications are also dual use, with commercial applications in VLSI lithography, biomolecular electronics and in self-assembling novel photonic nanostructures for alternative energy generation," claimed ExQor founder Franco Vitaliano.
The protein clathrin exists in the cells of most living things as a gate-keeper and signaling system. It sorts and transports chemicals by folding around them as they enter a cell. Individual clathrin subunits, called triskelion, are shaped like a tripod.
In solution, ExQor's synthetic version self-assembles a number of triskelia into 20- to 100-nanometer diameter cages containing "cargo." By functionalizing the triskelia with antibodies or other agents that identify pathogenic conditions like cancer or tissue damage, clathrin cages can carry drugs to specific cells, then pass inside to deliver them.