Mimicking Nature to Inspire Revolutionary Nanotechnologies
Over the course of millions of years, living organisms have developed ingenious “nanomachines”: entities that act like “green” technology on the scale of a nanometre (one-millionth of a millimetre). These microscopic machines allow an organism to produce and store clean energy, as well as create molecular systems that protect it from toxic substances, tumors, viruses and bacteria.
Dr. Alexis Vallée-Bélisle, Canada Research Chair in Bioengineering and Bionanotechnology, wants to reveal the secrets behind these nanomachines, opening the door to the creation of revolutionary nanotechnologies that could have a major impact on global health and the environment.
Vallée-Bélisle’s research team combines data from traditional scientific fields (biochemistry, chemistry, chemical, electrical and biomedical engineering, and medicine) to better understand and develop these nanomachines. Using DNA and other polymers produced by living organisms, they hope to uncover the design principles of natural nanomachines to create mimics.
These mimics would act as prototypes to develop tools and nanomachines that could have revolutionary medical applications. For example, they could be used to detect illnesses at home in just five minutes, or to improve the effectiveness—and reduce the side effects—of chemotherapy, by specifically targeting cancerous cells.
This medical nanotechnology could also help Canadian pharmaceutical and biotech companies gain an edge in an increasingly competitive global market.