The world's tiniest thermometer is made from DNA
Researchersat the University of Montrealhave created a thermometer that's an astonishing 20,000 times smallerthan a single human hair. The work could lead to significantimprovements in our understanding of how the human body functions onthe nanoscale.
We'veknown for decades that DNA molecules change when they're heated up,and recent discoveries have shown us that molecules such as RNA andproteins are used to report temperature changes in the body. Butmight it be possible to create nanoscale thermometers to use for ourown means?
Well,thanks to a new study, we now know that the answer is yes. Accordingto the researchers, one big benefit of working with DNA is that, inrelative terms at least, it's fairly simple. It's made up of fourdifferent molecules called nucleotides, the interactions betweenwhich are predictable, making them easily programmable.
Basedon those known interactions, the team was able to create structuresthat fold or unfold at specific temperatures. By adding an opticalelement, they were then able to easily detect signals produced when acertain temperature was hit, all with a thermometer than measuresjust 5 nm in width.
Asidefrom being an extremely impressive achievement in their own right,the tiny thermometers may have a big impact on our understanding ofmolecular biology.
"Thereare still many unanswered questions in biology," said senior author Professor Vallée-Bélisle."For example, we know that the temperature inside the human body ismaintained at 37° C, but we have no idea whether there is a largetemperature variation at the nanoscale inside each individual cell."
Fulldetails on the research are published online in the journal Nano Letters.
Source:University of Montreal