Above-Motorized molecules that target diseased cells may deliver drugs or kill the cells by drilling into the cell membranes. The illustration shows a motorized molecule sitting atop a cell membrane (left) and molecules activated by ultraviolet light drilling into the bilayer membrane (right).
Researchers at Rice, Durham and North Carolina State universities demonstrated in lab tests how rotors in single-molecule nanomachines can be activated by ultraviolet light to spin at 2 to 3 million rotations per second and open membranes in cells.
The researchers used motors based on work by Nobel laureate Bernard Feringa, who won the prize for chemistry in 2016. The motor itself is a paddle-like chain of atoms that can be prompted to move in a single direction when supplied with energy. Properly mounted as part of the cell-targeting molecule, the motor can be made to spin when activated by a light source.