Nanomedicine, Volume I: Basic Capabilities

© 1999 Robert A. Freitas Jr. All Rights Reserved.

Robert A. Freitas Jr., Nanomedicine, Volume I: Basic Capabilities, Landes Bioscience, Georgetown, TX, 1999


4.2.9 Receptor Sensors

Ligand mimics may also be used to allow a medical nanodevice to detect a particular receptor in its environment. Each such "receptor sensor" is a protruding physical structure that mimics all or part of the electrosteric structure of the ligand to which the target receptor has maximum specificity. For example, probes consisting of artificial structures that simulate antigen peptides (8-15 amino acids long) bound in an MHC-like structure439 (Section could be used to sense the presence of specific T-cell receptors.

Sensing pads displaying ligand mimic structures are brought into contact with the test surface. Any target receptors present will bind to a mimic structure, thus may be counted as the sensor sweeps slowly across the surface. Immediately after recognition has occurred, the mimic structure may be reversibly fragmented, destroying receptor/mimic affinity and allowing the receptor to release the mimic. Mimics are mounted on the sensor pad with an appropriately elastic compliance to prevent structure detachment during a measurement scan.

Receptor sensing is most useful in detecting receptors for large molecules. In the case of receptors for small molecules, there may sometimes be insufficient space in the target molecular volume to match the surface electrosteric structure, to accommodate ligand fragmentation control rods or cables, or to build internal boundaries sufficient to permit ligand fragmentation without creating undesirable reactive species. Some of these problems with small-molecule receptors may be partially overcome by employing an annular repulsive ring through which a mimic ligand may be forcibly retracted without fragmentation, but receptor orientation effects will present additional constraints.


Last updated on 17 February 2003