Projects per year
The fields of metallic nanoparticle study and synthetic biology have a great deal to offer one another. Metallic nanoparticles as a class of material have many useful properties. Their small size allows for more points of contact than would be the case with a similar bulk compound, making nanoparticles excellent candidates for catalysts or for when increased levels of binding are required. Some nanoparticles have unique optical qualities, making them well suited as sensors, while others display para-magnetism, useful in medical imaging, especially by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Many of these metallic nanoparticles could be used in creating tools for synthetic biology, and conversely the use of synthetic biology could itself be utilised to create nanoparticle tools. Examples given here include the potential use of quantum dots (QDs) and gold nanoparticles as sensing mechanisms in synthetic biology, and the use of synthetic biology to create nanoparticle-sensing devices based on current methods of detecting metals and metalloids such as arsenate. There are a number of organisms which are able to produce a range of metallic nanoparticles naturally, such as species of the fungus Phoma which produces anti-microbial silver nanoparticles. The biological synthesis of nanoparticles may have many advantages over their more traditional industrial synthesis. If the proteins involved in biological nanoparticle synthesis can be put into a suitable bacterial chassis then they might be manipulated and the pathways engineered in order to produce more valuable nanoparticles.