- The first question was based on the robin's egg I found on the savannah. Bird Eggs are composed of mostly water, organic monomers, inorganic salts and some organic signaling factors and RIBOSOMES. Amazingly, when the correct temperature and humidity conditions are present, the organic monomers undergo some sort of self-assembly assisted by the ribosomes and other cell components. Can industry utilize this concept to manufacture organic polymers using some sort of "artificial ribosome technology? I find the ideas of solution chemistry, directed polymerization and cued precipitation reactionsfascinating. For example, formation of teeth and bones in animals and humans. How can we make artificial “tissue scaffolds” that can be used to form the moldings for directed precipitation reactions such as those found in tooth and bone formation. Can we use natural “aqueous solutions” such as seawater and direct some sort of deposition reactions, such as those found in coral reefs, to build materials for construction or biomedical scaffolding. This idea of low energy polymerization really fascinates me and I love to include these types of applications in my chemistry class when we do precipitation reactions and solubility/aqueous chemistry units. Kids often have such a hard time understanding the applications of the chemistry they are taught and what a great opportunity to not only show them HOW nature used the principles of precipitation reactions, but how these concepts can be used in the fields of building materials and engineering. Very exciting!! One of the nanotechnology labs we performed in glass had to do with colloidal gold. How cool to be able to precipitate gold from seawater or utilize small dissolved metals for use in medical applications such as gold coated immunoglobins that tag cancer cells for destruction using directed laser/ (See sources section for articles on this topic).
“Eggs: Directed Self-Assembly, temperature-dependent polymerization??
The video below is from my classroom in May, 2014 when we hatched native quail eggs. This activity also influenced my questioning and I made the connection between the robin's egg and the classroom embryology project (as part of an developmental biology unit in AP Biology)
- The second question I am wondering is if the sensory systems used by snakes or even any receptor-mediated cell response that is used by all living things, can be used to make ligand-dependant "release capsules" the would deliver doses (of medicine, industrial catalysts, ect) when a specific molecule is present. I am wondering since the snake is so responsive to small, mobile molecules, can we use this concept in nanotechnology? Can receptor molecules be embedded within some sort of artificial membrane to trigger, say, release of drugs or electrical circuits only when some other molecule is present? Can molecular signaling such as found in the snake olfactory pathway be used to direct circuit switches do deliver medicine from a reservoir, say, like insulin doses when a threshold level of glucose is detected? Below is picture of the snake in my classroom from this May responding to the mouse. What triggered my thoughts on this question are related to this pictured event....one of my students did not let the frozen mouse sit long enough in hot water...the snake initially crawled over the sill-cold mouse and could not detect it, even though Bukwus (our corn snake pictured below) was siting right on the mouse. When we ran the mouse under water until the mouse was warm, the second we put the mouse on the table, Bukwus SNAPPED on him and fell off the table. Bottom line, the ligand molecules from the mouse needed to be dispersed in the atmosphere in gas form before Bukwus' tongue sensor could interact to cause the requisite deformation of receptor proteins.
- The third question I am wondering has to do with the bird migration. QUESTION: Do animals use colloidal ferrofluids to that align with the Earth’s magnetic field to guide their migration?
the year with a nanotechnology unit and ferrofluids is one of the experiments the students perform. They are asked to brainstorm a possible biological application and migration came up since we talked about magnetic field and migration in our ecology unit. Can small magnetic fields induce the flow or increased activity of metals in solution to guide their movement and or sense changes that can signal other events? Below a a few you tube video links that I use in my nanotechnology unit to introduce ferrofluids and magnetotaxis.
The You Tube Video Below provides a great introduction that helps explain the answer to the question What exactly "what are ferrofluids?"
- Primary Sources:
Heyers, D.; Manns, M.; Luksch, H.; Güntürkün, O.; Mouritsen, H. 2007. A visual
pathway links brain structures active during magnetic compass orientation in
migratory birds. PLoS one. 2(9): e937.
Lang C; Schüler D; Faivre D. 2007. Synthesis of magnetite nanoparticles for bioand
nanotechnology: genetic engineering and biomimetics of bacterial
magnetosomes. Macromolecular Bioscience. 7(2): 144-151.
Reith, F; Rogers, SL; McPhail, DC; Webb, D. 2006. Biomineralization of Gold: Biofilms on
Bacterioform Gold. Science. 313(14 July): 233-236.
"Biomimicry 3.8." Biomimicry 38. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 June 2014.
"Scientists at MIT Unraveling the Secrets of Red Tide." MIT News Office. N.p., n.d. Web. 16
Shuker, KPN. 2001. The Hidden Powers of Animals: Uncovering the Secrets of Nature. London:
Marshall Editions Ltd. 240 p.Application Ideas: In vitro production of nanomagnets and use it
for electrical power generation, magnetic energy.
"Videos." Komeili Lab. N.p., 2013. Web. 16 June 2014.