Supported by funding from the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, this project applies biological machines as tools to achieve high-resolution, high-rate imaging on the molecular level. Several proof-of-principle studies have been reported that interfaced molecular motors with nanoscale man-made objects, but the dream of using Nature's own nanomachines for practical applications has yet to be realized. Thus, molecular motors remain interesting structures that stir the imagination but which have not been used to create practically important functional devices.
We aim to make this important step by combining nanofabrication, kinesin-mediated microtubule transport, microfluidics, and optical single-molecule detection. It is expected that a resolution of ~50 nm or less can be achieved, on single molecules or segments of DNA molecules, using near-field optical slit microscopy. A molecular motor, based on a microtubule-kinesin interaction, will perform this task. If successful, this approach will enable rapid DNA mapping and possibly single-nucleotide polymorphism identification with ~10 times higher spatial resolution at the single-DNA-molecule level in a massively parallel way. Also, if successful, this method will probably be the first practical application of molecular motors, which have attracted much attention recently but so far have not provided many practical solutions to important technological problems.