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Will living proteins revolutionize computing?

May 28, 2010 // R. Colin Johnson, EE

Will living proteins revolutionize computing?

A living protein found in every cell of the human body — clathrin — could become a self-assembler of future information processing systems that are smaller, faster and cheaper than the inorganic computer circuitry we use today, according to ExQor Technologies, a Boston-based life sciences firm.

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The material, which ExQor has already demonstrated can be formed into
nano-sized bio-lasers suitable for transmitting information, will first
be used in medical applications. But its developers say the high
precision of its self-assembly process and ultra-small size could
enhance solar cells, batteries and energy management systems with
nanoscale electronic and photonic properties not possible for silicon
and other inorganic approaches.

"Our multi-patented clathrin nanoparticle is an intelligent
platform that can be functionalized with additional elements, such as
drug cargo and ligands for medical applications," said Franco
Vitaliano, ExQor's founder. "But our clathrin scaffolding applications
are also dual use, with commercial applications in VLSI lithography,
biomolecular electronics and in self-assembling novel photonic
nano-structures for alternative energy generation."

Clathrin is a protein that exists in the cells of most living
things as a gate-keeper and signaling system sorting and transporting
chemicals by folding around them as they are allowed to enter the cell.
Individual clathrin subunits, called triskelion, are shaped like a
tripod with three spindly legs.

Clathrin a star-shaped molecule self-assembles into nanoscale spheres that lase

In solution, ExQor's synthetic version self-assembles a number of
triskelia into 20-to-100 nanometer diameter cages containing cargo. By
functionalizing the triskelia with antibodies or other agents that
identify pathogenic conditions, such as cancer or tissue damage,
clathrin cages can carry drugs to specific cells, then pass inside to
deliver them. Since clathrin is a natural gatekeeper in the body, it
can readily access cells anywhere in the body even safely entering the
brain, which normally prevents large molecule drug-cargos from

While researching clathrin for medical applications, ExQor discovered
that the material exhibits quantum properties useful for biocomputing
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