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Biomolecular motors: A video interview with Henry Hess

Biomolecular motors enable active transport in biology, potentially making possible active materials capable of rearranging their components, or even molecular conveyor belts and forklifts for manufacturing at the nanoscale.
27 February 2008, SPIE Newsroom. DOI: 10.1117/2.3200802.0002

Henry Hess is Assistant Professor in the Department of Materials Science at the University of Florida (Gainesville, FL).

The research of the Hess group focuses on the applications of molecular motors. Biomolecular motors, such as the motor protein kinesin, convert chemical energy derived from the hydrolysis of individual ATP molecules into directed, stepwise motion. This enables them to act as fuel-efficient "tractor trailers" within cells, and to actively transport designated cargo, for example vesicles, RNA or viruses, to predetermined locations within cells. In biological systems, motor-driven active transport complements diffusion and pressure-driven fluid flow, providing close control over cargo movements within extremely restricted spaces. For engineers, observing active transport in biology inspires visions of nanofluidic systems for biosensing, of active materials capable of rearranging their components, and even of molecular conveyor belts and forklifts for manufacturing at the nanoscale.

He gave a keynote presentation at SPIE Photonics West entitled "Biomolecular motors challenge imaging and enable sensing." Coauthors are Thorsten Fischer, Ashutosh Agarwal, Parag Katira, Isaac. Finger, Elizabeth Mobley, Robert Tucker, Univ. of Florida; Jacob Kerssemakers and Stefan Diez, Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics (Dresden, Germany).

Right: Release of caged ATP by UV light confined to a circular region leads to activation of motors on the surface and the movement of fluorescently labeled microtubules. (Courtesy of Henry Hess)


Additional videos:

An animation of the kinesin motor

Kinesin motors working within a cell

Photonics, motors and applications: Several movies illustrating the link between optical methods, biophysics and nanotechnology.