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Nanoprobe development will enable scientists to uncover more DNA secrets

University of Kent

Scientists at the University of Kent have led a study that has developed a 'nanoprobe', a tenth of the size of a human hair, to help uncover more of the secrets of DNA.

New research directed by Dr Neil Kad, of the University's School of Biosciences, has led to the use of the nanoprobe to study how individual proteins interact with DNA. Invisible to the human eye, this tiny triangular probe can be captured using laser tweezers and then moved around inside a microscope chamber.

Proteins interact with each other and with other chemical components such as DNA. These interactions are classically studied multiple molecules at a time to provide an average view of their behaviour. This makes understanding how molecules respond to force much more difficult.

Scientists at Kent have previously developed a new technology that involves suspending single long strands of DNA between microscopic platforms to form 'tightropes'. Now, by using the nanoprobe, developed at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, it is possible to manipulate proteins bound to these tightropes; enabling the action of these proteins to be investigated with unprecedented detail.

The development will lead to greater understanding of how proteins attach to DNA, and represents an important step towards a marriage of complex nanodevices and single molecule biology. Researchers hope that in the future the development will enable them to study a large range of molecular interactions directly.

This research, entitled Directly interrogating single quantum dot labelled UvrA2 molecules on DNA tightropes using an optically trapped nanoprobe was performed in collaboration with the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory at Harwell, UK and also with the University of Pittsburgh, USA. The paper was published in the online journal Scientific Reports on 22 December. See here:


For further information or interview requests with the study director, contact Martin Herrema at the University of Kent Press Office.

Tel: 01227 823581/01634 888879


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Note to editors

Established in 1965, the University of Kent - the UK's European university - now has almost 20,000 students across campuses or study centres at Canterbury, Medway, Tonbridge, Brussels, Paris, Athens and Rome.

It has been ranked: third for overall student satisfaction in the 2014 National Student Survey; 16th in the Guardian University Guide 2016; 23rd in the Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2016; and 22nd in the Complete University Guide 2015.

In the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings 2015-16, Kent is in the top 10% of the world's leading universities for international outlook.

Kent is ranked 17th in the UK for research intensity (REF 2014). It has world-leading research in all subjects and 97% of its research is deemed by the REF to be of international quality.

Along with the universities of East Anglia and Essex, Kent is a member of the Eastern Arc Research Consortium (

The University is worth £0.7 billion to the economy of the south east and supports more than 7,800 jobs in the region. Student off-campus spend contributes £293.3m and 2,532 full-time-equivalent jobs to those totals.

In 2014, Kent received its second Queen's Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education.

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