Transforming how we fold proteins
A 15-hour flight from Los Angeles to Sydney can be thanked for Professor Colin Raston’s latest invention: the vortex fluidic device. This ‘eureka moment’ could transform the way we manufacture drugs.
The vortex fluidic device combines water, a liquid solvent and a laser in a rapidly spinning glass tube; it has been described like a small, tubular laundry washing machine with lasers. The device has the ability to untangle and slice carbon nanotubes that are just a few nanometres in diameter (i.e. tiny—about the width of a small virus) with unprecedented precision. Because carbon nanotubes are 200 times stronger and five times more flexible than steel, as well as five times more effective in conducting electricity than copper wires, this discovery could have wide ranging impact.
Carbon nanotubes are already being used for highly targeted drug delivery in cancer therapy, but scientists have always struggled to properly harness the material. The vortex fluidic device not only makes the process more effective and maintains the properties of the carbon nanotubes, but also offers a cleaner, cheaper and faster solution. Using the vortex fluidic device the common cancer treatment drug, carboplatin, used against ovarian and lung cancers, can be made four-and-a-half times more potent. The device could also enable small scale drug production in remote areas or disaster zones.