Our cells are controlled by billions of molecular "switches" and chemists at UC Santa Barbara have developed a theory that explains how these molecules work. Their findings may significantly help efforts to build biologically based sensors for the detection of chemicals ranging from drugs to explosives to disease markers.
Their research is described in an article published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS).
Biosensors are artificial molecular switches that mimic the natural ones, which direct chemical responses throughout the cell. "These switching molecules control the behavior of our cells," said Alexis Vallée-Bélisle, a postdoctoral scholar who spearheaded the project and is first author of the paper. "By studying these switches, we can better understand how living organisms are able to monitor their environment and use this knowledge to build better sensors to detect, for example, disease markers."