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BIOTECHNOLOGY: New research shows that biomolecules can be manipulated when they are exposed to radiation from a pulsed laser beam. They ’open up’ and can thereby be bonded to microscopic surfaces. The Danish research scientists who made the discovery are now collaborating with an Indian research group

When biomolecules are exposed to a pulsed laser beam something intriguing happens: The molecules ’open up’, and you can start manipulating them. You can move the molecules around and bond them to different surfaces. And above all you can hold protein molecules in position within just a few micrometers. That is nano scale biotechnology.

Professor Steffen Petersen and Teresa Neves Petersen at Aalborg University’s Department of Physics and Nanotechnology, made the discovery by serendipity. The spectrum of a certain protein displayed strange properties, which they had a choice of investigating closer or passing over. They chose to look into the phenomenon in the hope of discovering interesting new aspects of the function of proteins.


Luck was on their side, and they soon realised that what they had discovered could be used for industrial applications. Using laser beams, the proteins could be bonded with high precision on solid surfaces such as glass. Until now it has only been possible to bond proteins to surfaces by chemical methods which leave the molecules in random arrangement and with poor spatial precision. The new methods look highly interesting. The research scientists realised that they would be able to construct small biosensors, no bigger than a few millimetres in size, based on this principle – biosensors that would be able to simultaneously diagnose a number of different diseases including cancer.

The technology, which Steffen Petersen and Teresa Neves Petersen have patented in collaboration with Aalborg University and Novi Invest, will now be commercialised through BioNanoPhotonics A/S, a company which was established in autumn 2003.

In 2004, Steffen Petersen was invited to participate in the official visit to India by Danish Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation, Helge Sander. Here Petersen met Associate Professor Mrinalini Puranik at NCBS, and quickly realised that her research group could be a very interesting partner which could provide significant help to increase the total knowledge regarding the influence on light on bioprocesses.

“I visited her in Bangalore, and we found out that our research is complementary in a number of areas”, says Professor Petersen. “Since then, Associate Professor Puranik has visited us here in Aalborg, where she has been introduced to our new insight into the function of proteins. Her research group can contribute to our research in this area in a number of ways”.  


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