John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

Our Sperm Engine? It’s a V8 — 8 Flagella Mounted on the Crankcase

sperm.jpgHere’s a rather odd hybrid vehicle equally at place in the annals of science and science fiction: a sperm-powered nanoscale robot.

Scientists at Cornell University’s Baker Institute for Animal Health have nearly managed to reproduce (no pun intended) the minute biological engine that powers a sperm’s flagellum. That engine runs on a high-energy molecule called adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, which sperm create via a metabolic process known as glycolysis.

Now, glycolysis requires 10 enzymes attached in the proper sequence to occur in the body. What the Cornell scientists hope to do is make it occur on a tiny gold chip covered with nickel ions. So far, they have attached three of the 10 enzymes to do that. If they’re able to attach the remaining seven, that little gold chip should generate enough ATP to power a nanodevice. Should that occur, their achievement could usher in a new era of smart in-body medical devices that use blood glucose as fuel.

Said Dr. Erkki Ruoslahti, a nanotechnology researcher at the Burnham Institute for Medical Research in La Jolla, Calif., “Having some sort of way of being able to power nanodevices is the No. 1 bottleneck in constructing really clever devices.”