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Institute of Molecular Biology & Biotechnology (IMBB)
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  Title Acoustic biosensor for measuring the conformation of surface-attached biomolecules
  Group Biosensors Research Group, IMBB
  Researcher Dr. Electra Gizeli
  Abstract A new, label free approach which, in combination with a simple acoustic biosensor platform, can, in addition to mass, derive quantitative information on the size and shape of surface-bound biomolecules as well as follow structural changes of biomolecules occurring as a result of biological interactions. Its application will be significant in gene therapy and drugs' screening.
  Description Bending, curving or straightening of DNA or RNA are important structural changes for processes such as transcription, replication, and DNA packaging into nucleosomes. Defects in DNA(RNA)-bending proteins are responsible for certain human diseases while artificial DNA(RNA)-bending proteins can also be made to bend specific genetic sequences to turn genes "on" and "off". In addition, defects in protein folding have been clearly related to a number of diseases, such as cystic fibrosis, prion diseases etc. Analytical devices that can follow and quantify such structural changes will provide unique platforms for biotechnological applications related to gene therapy, DNA hybridization and screening of potential therapeutic agents as well as a powerful biophysical tool for DNA/RNA-ligand and protein-ligand mechanical studies.

Commercially available label-free biosensors are currently employing optical and acoustic systems, but at the moment cannot directly provide quantitative information about structural features of the biomolecules, which would be of great interest to biologists and biotechnologists.

The present approach involves an acoustic wave sensor such as a Quartz Crystal Microbalance (QCM) or Surface Acoustic Wave (SAW) device that can measure and derive structural information on the conformation of surface-bound discrete biomolecules, for example, DNA, RNA and/or proteins, as well as conformational changes of the above biomolecules as a result of their interactions. This information is derived experimentally through a simple measurement of the acoustic dissipation and frequency of the wave. The ratio of these quantities can be related through a simple theoretical model to the viscosity of the interface, which, in turn, can be correlated to the size and shape of the biomolecule. The validity of the approach has been verified experimentally for a vast range of biological systems.

Acoustic biosensors able to measure the conformation of surface-attached biomolecules will be significant in areas such as gene therapy, drugs screening, biochemical and physicochemical study of DNA/RNA-ligand interactions, protein-ligand interactions and DNA/RNA/protein biophysical studies.
  Current development phase The technology is available for demonstration and has been already field tested.
  Intellectual property rights: Patents have been applied for but not yet granted. UK and PCT patents pending.
  Type of collaboration sought Manufacturers of biosensors and/ or specialized equipment for R&D to adopt the technology through a Licence Agreement and use it for the enhancement of their existing products or to introduce a new line of innovative products.

R&D departments of Pharmaceutical/ Biotechnology companies to adapt the approach to their specific needs and use it with their current equipment through a Technical Cooperation Agreement.