Researchers from Pennsylvania State University have used natural enzymes to develop nanobot pumps to destroy harmful nerve agents while administering an antidote.
The research is based on a recent discovery that enzymes can move during a catalysing reaction. The scientists anchored the enzymes to a surface and used the pumping motion used for movement to move the surrounding fluid when a reactant was administered.
These newly developed nanobots are intended to neutralise a class of nerve agents called organophosphates, which can result in permanent neurological damage.
Organophosphates can be destroyed using the organophosphorus acid anhydrolase enzyme.
The researchers immobilised this enzyme on a gel that also comprised an antidote. This gel is embedded into a nanobot pump that takes in an organosphosphate compound and destroys it.
Study principal investigator Ayusman Sen said: “The enzyme actively pumps in the organophosphate compound and destroys it, and at the same time pumps out an antidote.”
The research findings will be presented at the 256th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS).
In the future, the researchers hope to use the nanobot pumps to protect clothing for the military or first responders.
The team is also investigating the use of other nanobot-based enzymes in additional applications such as an insulin-pumping device for diabetes and enzyme-powered drug-delivery system.