Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have developed a method to detect and destroy proteins, including dangerous ones such as anthrax, using light. The process exposes the proteins to invisible, near-infrared light, rendering them harmless. The technique lends itself to creating new antibacterial and antimicrobial films to control the spread of germs, and could lead to new methods to kill tumors.

The method involves exposing a means to remotely deactivate protein-wrapped carbon nanotubes by exposing them to invisible and near-infrared light. Shining light on the corrugated carbon nanotubes creates free radicals that deactivate the proteins. The researchers developed a clear, thin film made of carbon nanotubes employing the technology. The self-cleaning film can be turned into a coating that helps prevent the spread of harmful bacteria, toxins, and microbes.

According to Rensselaer professor of chemical and biological engineering Ravi Kane, the process can be tailored to work on other harmful proteins. The nanotubes can also be conjugated with peptides designed to seek out specific cancer cells before being released into a patient, making it possible to help prevent the spread of cancer.

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