Researchers at the University of Bath and the University of Michigan have shown that twisted semiconductors manipulate light in a new way. The effect can be harnessed to accelerate the discovery and development of life-saving drugs as well as photonic technologies.
Specifically, the photonic effect could help enable the rapid development and screening of new antibiotics and other drugs through automation—principally automated chemists. Provides a new analysis tool for high-throughput screening, a method for analyzing huge libraries of chemical compounds. A small sample of each compound fills a well on a microplate. Wells can be as small as a cubic millimeter, and a plate the size of a chocolate bar can hold a thousand of them.
Ventsislav Valev, Professor of Physics at the University of Bath in the UK and co-author of the research paper at Nature Photonics. “Therefore, fundamentally new approaches are needed to analyze potential drugs.”
One of the key measurements in drug analysis is chirality, or the way a molecule is wrapped. Biological systems, including the human body, usually prefer one direction over the other, which is the right or left plexus. At best, a wrongly twisted drug molecule does nothing, but at worst, it can cause harm. The effect discovered by the researchers allows the deflection to be measured at volumes 10,000 times smaller than a cubic millimeter.
“The small amounts possible to record these effects are a game-changing property that enables researchers to use very small amounts of expensive drugs and collect thousands of times more data,” said Nicholas Kotov, a professor of chemical sciences and engineering at the University of Irving Langmuir. at the University of Michigan and co-author of the paper.
The method is based on a structure inspired by biological designs developed in Kotov’s laboratory. Cadmium telluride, a semiconductor commonly used in solar cells, forms into nanoparticles that resemble short strips of twisted tape. These helices assemble into helices, mimicking the way proteins assemble.
“When illuminated with red light, tiny semiconductor spirals generate new, twisted blue light,” Kotov said. “Blue light is also emitted in a specific direction, which makes it easier to collect and analyze.” “The extraordinary optical effect triad significantly reduces noise that molecules and other nanoparticles may cause in biological fluids.”
To use these effects in high-throughput screening for drug discovery, nanoparticles that assemble into helixes can be mixed with a candidate drug. When the nanoparticles form the lock-and-key structure with the drug, simulating the drug target, the curvature of the nanopole will change dramatically. This change in torsion can be measured by blue light.
“The drug applications now are just a matter of technological development,” said Valev, who led the optical trials in Bath. “Our next step is to seek funding for this development.”
Generating blue light from red is also useful in drug development in samples approaching the complexity of biological tissues. Separating two colors of light is technically easy and helps reduce light noise, false positives, and false negatives. While the team attempted experiments to test the biological concept, COVID-19 caused shutdowns and delays to spoil the protein samples each time.
“Postdoctoral researcher on my part, Ji Young Kim, and doctoral student Lucas Onotic from Bath’s side, are heroes,” Kotov said. “They were trying to work some night shifts, even when that was very restrictive.”
The University of Michigan has applied for patent protection and is seeking partners to bring the new technology to market.
Twisted metaparticles as they really are
Lukas Ohnoutek et al, Third harmonic Mie scattering of semiconductor nanostructures, Nature Photonics (2022). DOI: 10.1038 / s41566-021-00916-6
Presented by the University of Michigan
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