SUMMARY: Is it possible to make nanomachines out of enzymes? This review looks at the ways we can harness enzymes to self-propel or use them as tiny machines. Doing so would have many implications in nanotechnology and drug delivery. There were a few ways to use enzymes. First, there was the DNA-enzyme coupled motor that ran on a “track” of complementary DNA bases. Second, there was using the products of enzyme catalysis as a way to create propulsion. Movement could be controlled by the density of the environment the enzyme was in. Enzymes could also be attached to a nanocontainer and the propulsion movement created was used to move this system. Finally, enzymes were used as micropumps that didn’t require an outside energy source. These pumps could also be used as sensors for toxins since enzymes are sensitive to changes in the environment; toxin levels were associated with the rate that the enzymes worked.
LESSON COMMENTS: This would make a great lab activity (long-term) for a physics or biology class. Physics students could research and design motors either with their knowledge of enzymes (there are many enzymes that are mentioned in the article they can choose from) or drawing an analogy to an enzyme. Biology students could explore the various advantages/uses or disadvantage of using enzymes as tiny motors. The projects from this article is a great opportunity for cross-curricular work, especially if teachers are trying to help students make the connection between various disciplines of science.
Ma, X., Hortelão, A. C., Patiño, T., & Sánchez, S. (2016). Enzyme Catalysis To Power Micro/Nanomachines. ACS nano, 10(10), 9111–9122. doi:10.1021/acsnano.6b04108