Recently Susheel K. Gunaseker, a student at NYU Poly's Department of Chemical and Biological Sciences Department, made a keen observation while conducting an experiment. Much like the discovery of penicillin, one experiment with unpredicted results has yielded a wealth of information and an incredible potential breakthrough for medical science. The discovery of nanofiber-producing proteins has the potential for offering advanced treatments and maybe even a cure for such diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer's Disease, in addition to advancements in computer and electronics technology.
This incredible breakthrough came when Gunaseker, a doctoral student, found that certain alpha helical coiled-coil proteins assembled themselves into nanofibers. This discovery was then taken to the next level when researchers decided to try to control the formation of the proteins using metal-recognizing amino acids. The coiled-coil proteins responded positively to zinc, which fortified the nanofibers, and nickel, which transformed the proteins into clumped mats. These clumped mats can potentially aid in the release of drug molecules, especially when paired with ingredients such as curcumin, a popular dietary supplement used to promote mental health in Alzheimer's patients.
It is hoped that this discovery can be applied to pharmaceutical science and used to treat patients with cancer and Alzheimer's, although this discovery may have much broader ramifications, as the science may be applied to regenerating bone tissue and cartilage as well. In addition, the potential for this scientific technique of producing nanofibers can be applied to the treatment of all types of injuries as well as various types of illnesses, as it is the ability to deliver medicine molecules and perhaps even human stem cells that holds the greatest potential of all.
Surprisingly, this research can also be applied to computer sciences as well, as a way of creating faster processors by producing nanoscale gold threads. This dual sciences discovery may potentially be one of the greatest breakthroughs in medical science in years, if not ever, but Gunaseker remains modest by stating that it was almost an accident. Many of science's greatest breakthroughs have come in this fashion, but to discover one that holds so much potential for so many millions of people is truly amazing.
The funding for the project came from the US Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, the US Air Force Office of Scientific Research, and the US Army Research Office. While research into the potential of this breakthrough to treat illnesses is still in its infancy, the doctoral student from NYU, Susheel K. Gunaseker, has certainly made a name for herself in the field of chemical and biological science.