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Department of Chemistry

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Drilling through Cell Membranes

(8 September 2017)

Robert Pal examining live cell images

Dr Robert Pal collaborated with US researchers on the successful opening of cell membranes by using light to activate molecular nanomachines. Cells were killed rapidly due to these activated motors puncturing their membranes by drilling through. Such machines show great promise in destroying cancer cells. This study is published in the highly respected journal Nature.

Robert, a Royal Society University Research Fellow since 2014, carried out the light-activated motor tests on live cells including human prostate cancer cells at Durham. The machines were synthesised by the research group of Professor James Tour at Rice University in the US. Professor Tour, as a Durham Lecturer in 2015, gave three thought-provoking talks here. The nanomachines were also tested on synthetic cell membranes by colleagues at North Carolina State University.

Between 2004 and 2014, Dr Pal did PhD and postdoctoral projects with Professor David Parker in this department. Robert is currently a director of the successful university spin-out company FScan which began in 2007.

Relevant information on this exciting investigation can be found at:

Durham University press release

Rice University press release

Rice video

Other press releases

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Single-molecule nanomachines drill into cells to fight cancer

Molecular motors can penetrate specific cellular targets

Krebs: Forscher greifen Tumorzellen direkt mit Nanorobotern an