The Molecular Structure of Biopolymers: Developing Nanopores as Probes
A nanopore can be a protein channel in a lipid bilayer or an extremely small isolated 'hole' in a thin, solid-state membrane. For a nanopore to be useful as a single molecule detector, its diameter must not be much larger than the size of the molecule to be detected -- just a few tens of Angstroms across. When a single molecule enters a nanopore in an insulating membrane, it causes changes in the nanopore's electrical properties that are readily detected with modern electronic devices and circuits. The mission of the Nanopore Group at Harvard is to study the science of single molecules in nanopores. Our aim is to use this knowledge to develop an ultra high-speed method for sequencing DNA, but we are also developing a number of other important, but less demanding, applications that utilize the extraordinary sensitivity and speed of nanopore probing. On the path to achieving sequencing, we are modeling the physics of DNA polymer movement through the confined space of a nanopore, coordinating the application of material science tools to fabricate solid-state nanopores, and developing the associated biochemistry, molecular biology, electronics, and signal processing to effect molecular recognition.