The first-ever Nanobiology Conference will bring 70 of the worlds
most authoritative life scientists, physical scientists and engineers
to Emory Oct. 2527 to discuss the latest developments in understanding
the physics of biological processes at the nanometer scale.
The conferences goal is to see how biology works at the nanometer
scale and how biological molecular machines made of a few molecules can
be duplicated. Emory physics Professor Fereydoon Family, Professor Miguel
Arizmendi of the Universidad Nacionál de Mar del Plata in Argentina
and Professor Tamás Vicsek, head of biological physics at Eötvös
University in Hungary, are organizing the conference.
Nanotechnology involves the design and creation of devices out of a few
atoms and small moleculesdevices roughly the size of a nanometer,
or a billionth of a meter. A million nanoscale devices can fit on a single
dot on a page. Nanodevices have innumerable technological applications;
some function like tiny machines, such as motors, pumps and other mechanical
devices that can transport and manipulate things. Some act as extremely
tiny, but powerful, electronic and chemical appliances, like computers,
lasers and storage devices.
The conference is expected to influence the field of nanotechnology, as
scientists introduce novel nanoscale structures that can be fabricated
or self-assembled, as well as explain the dynamics of nanoscale biological
motors and machines.
We need to understand the physics of nanoscale machines and how
they operate under different conditions, Family said. Scientists
cannot just build these structures randomly and hope that they will function
Familys team of researchers has been working to find out how nature
works at the nanoscale, particularly how transport takes place in biological
systems at the nanoscale.
Nature already makes great use of nanotechnology, he said. Nature
has elegantly endowed each cell with a network of highways, made of polymerized
proteins, along which nanoscale robots and molecular motors are busy at
work delivering energy, carrying food to where it is needed, transporting
waste out of the system, and defending the cell and its components against
What is actually happening in biological systems at the nanoscale
is truly amazing and quite counterintuitive, Family said. Inside
a cell, a molecular motor is continuously bombarded by the random forces
of water molecules hitting it from all directions. How can this molecule
move so precisely inside a cell and do what it does? The laws of physics
would say that under such a noisy condition the molecule would be pushed
around and made to go back and forthbut on average it will stay
where it is. What allows the nanoscale motor to move in a particular direction
is that the system goes out of equilibrium so that random noise has been
changed to a deterministic motion.
The situation gets even worse for the nanoscale motor. It is easy
to realize that not only are these molecular motors being pushed around
by a hail of random forces, they also are often moving in a rugged landscape,
a landscape with irregular hills and mountains. What we have discovered
is that this adds a nonlinear force to the dynamics of the motion of the
molecule, so that tiny perturbations throw the system into a chaotic state.
How does nature avoid this trap? Why dont biological molecular motors
The answer Family found was in the synchronization of the inherent frequency
of the motion of the molecule and the external noise. There is,
in fact, an extremely robust range of parameters in which the system can
be easily controlled back into regular motion.
The impact of nanodevices in medicine will be revolutionary,
Family said. There will be new generations of prosthetic and medical
implants whose surfaces are molecularly designed to interact with the
body. Specially designed molecules will react with the body fluids to
regenerate bone, skin and other damaged tissues or act on plaques in the
brain to fight against buildup of amyloid deposits and Alzheimers
disease. The work were doing to discover the physics of nanobiology
will help take us there.