Tiny ‘Lego’ blocks Build Janus nanotubes: For NEW drugs and water purification


Nanotubes images(Nanowerk News) Researchers have created tiny protein  tubes named after the Roman god Janus which may offer a new way to accurately  channel drugs into the body’s cells.
Using a process which they liken to molecular Lego, scientists  from the University of Warwick and the University of Sydney have created what  they have named ‘Janus nanotubes’ – very small tubes with two distinct faces.  The study is published in the journal Nature Communications (“Janus cyclic peptide–polymer nanotubes”).
They are named after the Roman god Janus who is usually depicted  as having two faces, since he looks to the future and the past.
The Janus nanotubes have a tubular structure based on the  stacking of cyclic peptides, which provide a tube with a channel of around 1nm –  the right size to allow small molecules and ions to pass through.
Attached to each of the cyclic peptides are two different types  of polymers, which tend to de-mix and form a shell for the tube with two faces –  hence the name Janus nanotubes.
The faces provide two remarkable properties – in the solid  state, they could be used to make solid state membranes which can act as  molecular ‘sieves’ to separate liquids and gases one molecule at a time. This  property is promising for applications such as water purification, water  desalination and gas storage.
In a solution, they assemble in lipids bilayers, the structure  that forms the membrane of cells, and they organise themselves to form pores  which allow the passage of molecules of precise sizes. In this state they could  be used for the development of new drug systems, by controlling the transport of  small molecules or ions inside cells.
Sebastien Perrier of the University of Warwick said: “There is  an extraordinary amount of activity inside the body to move the right chemicals  in the right amounts both into and out of cells.
“Much of this work is done by channel proteins, for example in  our nervous system where they modulate electrical signals by gating the flow of  ions across the cell membrane.
“As ion channels are a key component of a wide variety of  biological process, for example in cardiac, skeletal and muscle contraction,  T-cell activation and pancreatic beta-cell insulin release, they are a frequent  target in the search for new drugs.
“Our work has created a new type of material – nanotubes – which  can be used to replace these channel processes and can be controlled with a much  higher level of accuracy than natural channel proteins.
“Through a process of molecular engineering – a bit like  molecular Lego – we have assembled the nanotubes from two types of building  blocks – cyclic peptides and polymers.
“Janus nanotubes are a versatile platform for the design of  exciting materials which have a wide range of application, from membranes – for  instance for the purification of water, to therapeutic uses, for the development  of new drug systems.”
Source: University of Warwick
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