2:00 pm to 3:00 pm
Optical Sensing of Biological Activity, One Molecule at a Time
Nanomaterials have distinct optical, chemical, and mechanical properties that make them useful for biomedical applications including the development of highly sensitive and specific sensors of biological activity. For instance, innovative functionalization of single-wall carbon nanotubes (SWNT) with polymers can provide SWNT with novel functions for a variety of applications. Our recent work has employed noncovalent SWNT functionalization to produce several optical sensors for small molecules such as hormone estradiol, and essential vitamin B2. Further development of these optical sensors is promising for areas in need of sensors with high spatial and temporal resolution, such as label-free detection of proteins within a cell, point-of-care diagnostic tools, and nanoscale therapeutics. The immediate utility of our optical sensors is demonstrated by monitoring vitamin uptake into a living cell for over an hour. We also successfully utilize this platform to produce optical sensors for neurotransmitter detection and visualize this process of molecular recognition on the single-molecule scale. We further show the utility of SWNT-polymer conjugates in the scope of “plant nanobionics”: the detection of molecular pollutants inside living plants with a dual-wavelength ratiometric signal. Future work will focus on the real-time detection of protein expression, microbial infections, deep tissue imaging, and kinetics of protein misfolding.
Markita Landry is an NSF Postdoctoral Research fellow in the department of Chemical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She received a B.S. in Chemistry, and a B.A. in Physics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a Ph.D. in Chemical Physics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Additionally, she has held interim research positions at the Biophysics Institute at the Technical University of Munich, and at the center for nanobiosciences at Osaka University.
Her current research centers on the development of label-free sensors using nanoparticle-polymer composites. In future work, she would like to focus her research on the collaborative potential between the fields of single-molecule biophysics and nanomaterials research to develop new diagnostic and sensing tools. She was a recipient of the NSF graduate research fellowship, and is a recent recipient of early career awards from the NARSAD foundation and the Burroughs Wellcome Fund.