The Importance of Protein Nanotechnology

The living cell, with its myriad of biological components, may be considered the ultimate nanoscale device. Figure 1 shows a schematic diagram of the cell with its various components. Some typical sizes of proteins and biological species are given in Table 1. Chemistry also deals with atoms and molecules, which are of nanometer sizes. However, nanotechnology differs from chemistry in a very fundamental aspect. Whereas chemistry deals with atoms and molecules at the bulk level (we do not see the molecules in chemical solutions), nanotechnology seeks to actually "manipulate" individual atoms and molecules in very specific ways.

Proteins are major cellular components that play an essential role in maintaining the functioning of the cell. Proteins have a number of functions. They can function as enzymes, which are the driving force for biochemical reactions. Also, they can serve as antibodies that recognize invading elements and allow the immune system to neutralize and eliminate unwanted invaders. Proteins have functions within physiological as well as pathophysiological processes in a cell or organism. Because diseases, therapy, and drugs can alter protein profiles, a determination of protein profiles can provide useful information for understanding disease and designing therapy. Therefore, understanding the structure, metabolism, and function of proteins at the molecular (i.e., nanoscale) level is absolutely critical to our understanding of biological

Fig. 1. Schematic diagram of a cell and its components.

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