18 June 2009

Bionanotechnology in the interests of man

L. Yudina, "Science in Siberia" N 24-2009

The Institute of Chemical Biology and Fundamental Medicine SB RAS held a conference "Chemical Biology – Fundamental problems of Bionanotechnology" on June 10-14.

It was dedicated to the anniversary of the IHBFM, which turned 25 in April. Academician D. G. Knorre addressed the conference participants gathered in the small hall of the House of Scientists of the SB RAS with a welcoming speech. It was Dmitry Georgievich who was the organizer and the first director of the institute, which spun off from the Novosibirsk Institute of Organic Chemistry and was initially called the Novosibirsk Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry. D. G. Knorre worked in this post for about two decades, then handed over the reins to his student V. V. Vlasov.

The speaker recalled some pages of the history of the IHBFM. Actually, the idea of creating an institute of this orientation took shape long before the team began an independent life, and matured at the top – in the Academy of Sciences and the walls of the Research Institute. D. G. Knorre named the main stages of the formation of a new scientific institution – training, acquisition of equipment, construction of a building. Targeted capacity building was underway. The scientist spoke with great warmth about the people who made a significant contribution to the establishment of the institute. I focused on how the team grew and matured, gaining advanced positions in science, strengthening its authority every year. However, the whole course of the conference, the speeches of the participants only confirmed what D. G. Knorre had said.

The first plenary report ("Nanotechnology platform for the analysis of nucleic acids") was read by Academician M. A. Grachev, Director of the Limnological Institute of the SB RAS. Mikhail Alexandrovich, having arrived from Moscow at one time, began his scientific biography in NIOH, then continued in Bioorganics. And although he has been working in Irkutsk for more than twenty years, every time he comes to Akademgorodok, he, as he himself put it, "freezes his heart."

– This institute is native to me... I haven't been here for a long time. But now the difficult 90s have flown by. Once I heard about this institute – they say, it trains personnel only for abroad, and it is in a difficult situation... When I arrived in 2002, contrary to my expectations, I saw a completely renovated building, laboratories equipped with instruments, a lot of young people. That is, a wonderful, full-blooded team, functioning normally. The Institute only benefited from the fact that its employees traveled abroad. Today it is a very strong institution, closely connected with medicine, which is facilitated by its clinical department.

These words are like an introduction to the report, interesting, informative, richly illustrated, the emphasis in which, as, indeed, later in other reports, was placed on the keyword "nano".

Actually, the research of chembiologists has been conducted in nano-measurements for a long time. It is "nanomanipulations" that help to solve many problems, including those focused on medicine. But, since the "nano era" has come, nanobiotechnology has officially and firmly entered the scientific field. The current conference is the first in the traditional cycle of IHBFM forums within the framework of the chemical biology direction.

– Since we have crossed the 25-year milestone and entered the time of maturity, rethinking some results, turning to new horizons, we decided to consider one of the priority areas for today – bionanotechnology, – says the chairman of the organizing committee, Deputy Director of the Institute of Chemical Biology and Fundamental Medicine D. V. Pyshny. – First of all, from the standpoint of what it can give to man and humanity. IHBFM always focuses on such a statement of the question.

First of all, we are talking about "bio" technologies. They should lead biologists to an unambiguous understanding of how to control biomolecules and what result can be obtained in the end. The Institute has extensive experience working with biomolecules – characterization, research of biochemical properties, and so on. And the whole body of knowledge – in such a reinterpreted version, in technological terms, shows what new useful properties of biomolecules can appear. It becomes clear how to set the required, change the structural characteristics for a specific class of compounds.

In other words, the technological task is clearly formulated: we must make biomolecules work for us. For what, you may ask. In particular, to create new types of medicines and forms. This is what IHBFM has been doing for many years – studying all kinds of nanocomplexes of nucleic acids. There is a problem of delivering foreign nucleotide material into the patient's cells, into certain tissues, ensuring specificity in each case.

There are special machines – molecular, cellular, which prevent the penetration of nucleic acids into cells. But that's the way it should be – these machines are required to work without failure, so that you can protect yourself from alien, potentially dangerous genetic information. So we are forced to create peculiar complexes that no longer look like nucleic acids outwardly, although in fact they are. This is the only way to make a targeted correction of genetic failures.

The created complexes, potentially penetrating through the cell wall, should help to ensure that the nucleic acids manifest their "biological essence" – a gene-directed biologically active substance works.

Another important area that is being discussed at the conference is the development of molecular probes designed to analyze certain fragments in the composition of nucleic acids. Now this molecular tool is widely used for DNA diagnostics. A huge number of tests conducted in clinics are aimed at analyzing the state of DNA.

Despite the successes achieved in this field, there are also problems associated with the need to improve the designs of oligonucleotide probes, improving the quality and reliability of the response of the molecular instrument. Accordingly, we are constantly working to improve them.

This is a very peculiar nanotechnology task. We understand the essence of the object, its chemical nature, the forces it exerts to interact with the nucleic acid analyzed by the target. We are trying, based on a combination of either different chemical modifications or specific conditions for the formation of complexes, to find the components, such a probe structure that would provide the most accurate response with minimal costs. The optimal solution to this truly nanobiotechnological problem promises optimistic outcomes.

Special attention today is focused on the use of different conjugates of biomolecules, with metallic nanoparticles, nanoparticles of semiconductor materials – that is, compounds that are completely not found in nature. A considerable part of the speeches was devoted to them at the conference. These constructions contain a certain potential in terms of solving diagnostic problems, creating dosage forms. For example, inorganic nanoobjects, metal particles have a number of valuable properties and can be heated under the influence, which is used in some situations. Biomolecules are able to act as a "postman" – they took, attached the address, sent it – came, turned on the light bulb – the biological target is defeated!

All over the world, a large number of researchers are engaged in these fundamental problems. At the conference, we understood the basics of the formation of hybrid structures, self-organization of biomolecules. There are both nanoscale aggregates and biopolymers – DNA, proteins and associates based on them.

When a molecule in its structure already carries a certain potential that allows you to set the order of assembly of the supramolecular structure, when not one, but two, tens, hundreds of monomeric units merge into a single whole, ordered in a certain way, interesting problems arise, and there are a huge number of them.

The main part of the conference participants are employees of the institutes of the Siberian branch, as well as researchers from the European part of the country. Many original results are presented, there is something to argue about. I would like to emphasize once again that at our meetings we consider the principles of creating hybrid materials, the principles of self–organization. The data on the study of biological processes related to the systems of protection of genetic material from damage, synthesis of protein molecules in the cell from the point of view of nanotechnology were reported.

In general, a picture emerges of how real biological machines work, molecular mechanisms that represent the very nature-selected supramolecular ensembles that are created to fulfill specific goals. These biological objects should be viewed as a creation of high technology. And to gain this invaluable experience of molecular selection, to know it and to embody it in the elements of the nanobiotechnologies we are developing.

One of the days of the conference was devoted to the results of the use of molecular hybrid structures, nanomolecular probes in medical diagnostics, their use as promising drugs, noticeably improved compared to existing ones. There are especially many messages on this topic.

The day considered various physical problems for use in bioanalytical purposes. A huge number of physicists around the world are looking for an opportunity to apply their forces in the field of biology. The Institute of Chemical Biology and Fundamental Medicine has been successfully cooperating with physicists of the Siberian Department for a long time.

It was with real pleasure that we gave the opportunity to the institutes of the physical profile of the SB RAS to show their resources and potential in the field of analysis of biological structures and the creation of biocompatible devices. Excellent reports were made by representatives of the Institute of Semiconductor Physics SB RAS. A large delegation headed by Deputy Director Alexander Vasilyevich Latyshev from this friendly organization has convincingly proved that the potential for mutually beneficial cooperation with biochemists is enormous. Reports were presented by catalysts and even thermophysicists. Thus, a scientific "revision" of the points of contact has been carried out. What we saw is impressive. We are waiting for the return.

A very interesting report was brought by Professor Mathias Shprils from Germany. He deals with bio-chips compatible with electrical devices. We hope for cooperation in this area.

The conference was attended by representatives of world leaders in the development of high–tech equipment for analytical purposes. We have provided a platform for them to show modern equipment, developments that are brought to practice and allow them to move forward by leaps and bounds in the study of biological molecules and their nanoassemblies.

We are sincerely grateful to all participants. I consider our conference to be truly interdisciplinary – in the spirit of the traditions of the Siberian Branch, – concluded Dmitry Vladimirovich.

The conference worked in a tight mode for five days. There were sections: bionosensors and diagnostics of nanostructures, where the basics of biosensor devices, physical methods of analyzing bionostructures were considered; bionomachines, bionanostructures and bionanocatalysis; principles of self-organization of bionostructures and the production of hybrid bionanomaterials; nanoobjects in biotechnology and medicine.

Bright, informative speeches served as an occasion for the development of the topic, the deployment of scientific disputes. The speeches of the IHBFM employees, who recently celebrated the anniversary, were perceived with unflagging interest. The conclusion at the same time was obvious – the IHBFM has turned into an institution actively working in the direction of organizing science, conducting research at a high level and achieving unique results.

Portal "Eternal youth" http://vechnayamolodost.ru/17.06.2009

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