A team of researchers from the Physics, Chemistry, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering departments of the University of Melbourne have found that a quantum atom enclosed in a nanodiamond could be used as a sensor to investigate the biological environment inside a live human cell. This groundbreaking research was headed by Lloyd Hollenberg from the University of Melbourne's School of Physics.
Lloyd Hollenberg stated that the study could lead to the development of a new range of quantum sensors. He added that these biological sensors could play a major role in the fields of nanomedicine and drug discovery.
The quantum sensor can be used to identify biological mechanisms at the molecular scale, like directing chemicals into and out of the human cells, which is critical in interpreting the functioning of drugs.
Their research has been published in the Nature Nanotechnology journal. The ARC Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology sponsored the research. In the laboratory, the scientists used sophisticated technology to control the atom encased in the nanodiamond before introducing it into the human cells.
According to Dr Yan from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, University of Melbourne, the quantum sensor offers critical data regarding the motion of the nanodiamond inside the active cell and is highly significant for the nanomedicine field since delivery of drugs depend on the diffusion of like-sized nanoparticles into the living cell.
Liam McGuinness, Quantum Physicist and PhD Student from the Melbourne University's School of Physics, mentioned that observing the movement of the quantum sensor inside an active cell was a major accomplishment. He mentioned that initially, quantum measurements at atomic level could be performed only under highly regulated environments of a physics laboratory. He added that it is expected that in another few years, the research team will further develop this new technology and offer a group of tools for drug development and nanomedicine.