Instruments, a world-leading manufacturer of nanoanalytic instrumentation
for research in life sciences and soft matter, is pleased to report on the first
work from the University of Nottingham who have chosen the ForceRobot® 300
system for their School of Pharmacy.
The Laboratory of Biophysics and Surface Analysis (LBSA), a multidisciplinary
research division within the School of Pharmacy at the University of Nottingham,
is one of the world's leading scanning probe microscopy groups, having published
several hundred ground-breaking papers over the last twenty years.
Dr Stephanie Allen (Associate Professor and Reader in Molecular Biophysics)
is an academic based within the LBSA. Her research interests focus in single
molecule biophysics, and are driven by a desire to understand how biological
processes work at the molecular level. Dr Allen also has an interest in exploring
how this research can be exploited for the development of new therapeutic approaches
within the pharmaceutical and biomedical sectors. Her work involves the application
and development of a range of advanced biophysical tools such as Atomic Force
Microscopy (AFM), the Quartz Crystal Microbalance (QCM-D), the Biomembrane Force
Probe (BFP) and Optical Tweezers. Most recently, she has added a new advanced
technique from JPK Instruments - the ForceRobot® 300 system, which provides
the ability to automate force spectroscopy measurements.
Force spectroscopy is an approach that allows the real-time study of molecular
interactions to the single molecule level. Originating from the broad field
of AFM, force spectroscopy directly enables the measurement of forces between
and within molecules. The sensitivity is high enough to characterize the force
required to unfold a single protein molecule or the mechanical strength of a
single biomolecular receptor-ligand bond.
Force spectroscopy measurements are being applied at Nottingham in a number
of projects (funded by the BBSRC and Pharmaceutical Industry). In single molecule
experiments, the group are studying the effects of bacterial DNA binding/remodelling
proteins on the mechanical properties of DNA. Other projects are aimed towards
gaining an improved understanding of the molecular basis of diseases, such as
those related to the blood protein, von Willebrand Factor (vWF). The ability
to record forces between a pair of interacting biomolecules is also being explored
as a basis for new screening approaches e.g. for drug-discovery and/or biopharmaceutical
While it is possible to perform such studies using conventional AFM instruments
that are capable of performing force spectroscopy measurements, the experiments
are not trivial to perform/optimize and can be very labour and time intensive;
many hundreds/thousands of force measurements are typically required per experiment.
The ForceRobot is an automated platform with great flexibility enabling the
researcher to plan advanced experiments, with automated procedures allowing
the continuous recording of thousands of force measurements and the change of
key experimental variables within one experiment, such as measurement surface
location, speed of approach and retraction of the probe, and also checks of
laser alignment and calibration during the experiment.
Says Dr Allen, "working with the ForceRobot enables my research group
to perform more experiments without tying them to the bench to manually adjust
parameters between each measurement. The system shows a lot of potential to
provide improved statistical data, which I hope will lead to important new results
very soon." The ForceRobot 300 has many further options for fluidics and
temperature control to enable more reproducible results than achieved on a basic