From our heart’s beating to the neural networks in our brain, many biological processes rely on cells, which use electricity to send signals. Chicago Researchers have now built a DNA-based tool – a voltmeter – that can measure this electricity. So how did they do it? Can this be used in bio-electronics?
Crux of the Matter
What Is The Tool Used?
A DNA voltmeter called Voltair, that can measure the membrane potential i.e voltage differences between the inside and the outside of sub-cellular structures called organelles, which are found in the cells of organisms.
- The nuclei, which store genetic information.
- Mitochondria, which produces chemical energy.
- Ribosomes, which assemble proteins.
- Lysosomes, which break down excess or worn-out cell parts.
Dye Used As A Sensor
Yamuna Krishnan from the University of Chicago, Illinois and her colleagues developed a sensor comprised of 2 DNA strands, which links to molecules of fluorescent dye. This dye responds to voltage fluctuations by changing its brightness. Then the DNA can bind to specific proteins on a cell’s surface, allowing the sensor to enter the cell.
How Can This Help?
When a membrane breaks, voltage is expected to be null, while when a membrane is repaired, voltage varies. Voltair can detect and report such fluctuation in real-time. The sensor could help reveal how organelles use electricity to regulate their function and its further role in biocompatible electronics.
What Are Bio-compatible Electronics?
They refer to various electrical components that are biocompatible, i.e. not toxic to living cells. Thus, as opposed to traditional electronic devices, bioelectronic devices can be implanted without any protective encasing. They are organic in form and can be safely inserted into the human body consequently.
List Some Uses
- Pacemakers, used to treat arrhythmias i.e problems with the rhythm of our heartbeat.
- Brain implants, that can treat depression and epilepsy, a disorder that causes seizures.
- The phrase “powerhouse of the cell” used to describe the function of mitochondria was coined by biologist Philip Siekevitz in the article “Powerhouse of the Cell” published in 1957. Over the years, this phrase is used as an example of impractical information taught in public schools by netizens.
- The first digital voltmeter was invented and produced by Andrew Kay of Non-Linear Systems (and later founder of Kaypro) in 1954.
- Chromosome 1 is the designation for the largest human chromosome. Chromosome 1 spans about 249 million nucleotide base pairs, which are the basic units of information for DNA. It would be 85 mm long if straightened.