University of Groningen (Netherlands) scientists, led by Associate Professor of Chemical Biology Giovanni Maglia, have designed a nanopore system that is capable of measuring different metabolites simultaneously in a variety of biological fluids, all in a matter of seconds. The electrical output signal is easily integrated into electronic devices for home diagnostics. The results were published online on October 5, 2018 in Nature Communications. The open-access article is titled “Direct Electrical Quantification of Glucose and Asparagine from Bodily Fluids Using Nanopores.” Measuring many metabolites or drugs in the body is complicated and time-consuming, and real-time monitoring is not usually possible. The ionic currents that pass through individual nanopores are emerging as a promising alternative to standard biochemical analysis. Nanopores are already integrated into portable devices to determine DNA sequences. “But it is basically impossible to use these nanopores to specifically identify small molecules in a complex biological sample,” says Dr. Maglia. A year ago, Dr. Maglia and colleagues demonstrated how to use nanopores to identify the “fingerprints” of proteins and peptides, and even to distinguish polypeptides that differ by one amino acid (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5715100/). Now, he has adapted this system to identify small molecules in biological fluids. To do so, he used a larger cylindrical-shaped nanopore to which he added substrate-binding proteins. “Bacteria make hundreds of these proteins to bind substrates in order to transport them into the cells. These proteins have specificities that have evolved over billions of years.” Dr. Maglia adapts the binding proteins to fit inside the nanopore. If a protein then binds to its substrate, it changes its conformation.
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