The miniaturization of electronics continues to create unprecedented capabilities in computer and communications applications, enabling handheld wireless devices with tremendous computing performance operating on battery power. This same miniaturization of electronic systems is also creating new opportunities in biotechnology and biophysics.
A team of researchers at Columbia Engineering has used miniaturized electronics to measure the activity of individual ion-channel proteins with temporal resolution as fine as one microsecond, producing the fastest recordings of single ion channels ever performed. Ion channels are biomolecules that allow charged atoms to flow in and out of cells, and they are an important work-horse in cell signaling, sensing, and energetics. They are also being explored for nanopore sequencing applications. As the “transistors” of living systems, they are the target of many drugs, and the ability to perform such fast measurements of these proteins will lead to new understanding of their functions.
The researchers have designed a custom integrated circuit to perform these measurements, in which an artificial cell membrane and ion channel are attached directly to the surface of the amplifier chip. The results are described in a paper published online May 1, 2013, in Nano Letters.
The Fu Foundation School of Engineering & Applied Science - Columbia University, May 20, 2103