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£140,000 for research into peptide nanotubes

The structure of CC-Hex shown as a "cartoon" on the left, and as orthogonal views in the middle and the right showing all of the atoms in the molecule and the central channel. The channel is just half a nanometer across.

The structure of CC-Hex shown as a "cartoon" on the left, and as orthogonal views in the middle and the right showing all of the atoms in the molecule and the central channel. The channel is just half a nanometer across.

29 March 2012

Professor Dek Woolfson, Dr David Fermin and Dr Franziska Thomas in the School of Chemistry have secured a three-year Leverhulme Trust Research Project Grant totalling £140,000.

The award is to develop the design, assembly and functionalisation of peptide nanotubes, leading to nanothin metal wires.

This is based on a recent discovery in the Woolfson lab, in collaboration with Professor Paula Booth and Professor Leo Brady in the School of Biochemistry, of peptides that assemble into helical bundles with a central channel (see figure).  These assemblies will form the molecular building block for the proposed nanotubes.

Professor Woolfson said: “The nice thing about the new protein structure that we have discovered, which we call CC-Hex, is that it is very appealing as a molecular building block for more complex and functional structures.  For example, we are exploring possibilities of making enzymes and ion-channel proteins out of CC-Hex.

“The new grant takes us into the territory of assembling metal and semiconductor wires on the scale of approximately one thousandth the width of a human hair.  At the moment this is basic science, but it will be interesting to see if we can construct tiny electronic circuits and devices with this bio-inspired approach.”

The discovery of CC-Hex was described in a paper published in Nature Chemistry Biology on 30 October 2011.  Press release: New protein structure expands nature's repertoire of biomolecules

The Leverhulme Trust was established in 1925 under the will of the first Viscount Leverhulme.  It is one of the largest all-subject providers of research funding in the UK, distributing funds of some £60 million every year.

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