Wonder if it will catch on. A new paper, posted on the database arXiv, introduces a name for a new field of research: proteotronics, or the study and development of electronic circuits with proteins as a plug-in part.
Apparently, proteins have their own unique electricalÂ properties. Run a current through them, and different proteins will react differently.Â The paper’s authors, a team of three engineers from Italy, demonstrated that one protein is even able to act as a switch, The Physics arXiv Blog reports. The researchersÂ ran a current through aÂ proteinÂ called OR-17, which is normally found in rats’ noses and reactsÂ toÂ fruity-smelling chemicals called aldehydes. The researchers found OR-17 has different electrical properties when it senses different concentrations of an aldehyde called octanal. It’s a switchÂ that flipsÂ in response to the presence ofÂ octanal.
Where you could use a protein switch is still an open question. One obvious answer is in electronic detectors that find things like contaminants in water,Â pollutants in the air, or chemical signs of illness in people. Find a protein that reactsÂ to the chemical you’re interested in, measure the protein’sÂ electrical changes, and voilÃ , you’ve got a protein-based electronic detector. This could be another approach to the electronic noses researchers have developed in recent years. Protein-basedÂ devices would have one major challenge to overcome, however. They would have to find a way to keep potentially delicate proteins intact and functional inside a silicon gadget.
from Popular Science http://ift.tt/1jUQWTa