A molecule of medicine which enters a cell receptor would dance with some turns, twists and sputters and then lock with it. In real time, this interaction happens in a nanosecond, making it impossible to watch these movements. But scientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology have been able to achieve this by fine-tuning an atomic scale instrument.

This National Science Foundation funded research’s findings were published in the journal the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in November 2016. The scientists improved an atomic force microscope (AFM) by carefully adding its sensing probe with electronic white noise.

The molecules tug at each other with lots of weak forces like the van der walls interactions. AFM measures these energies with the help of a nanoscale cone-shaped probe stuck near the molecules. The cone probe feels the interactive forces which make the flexible tiny stick attached to it to wiggle. These quivering movements are transferred into the microscope which converts this into usable signal.

The probe could not however detect the deepest part of the interaction. But, this advancement can help researchers find out why certain drugs work well while others do not. 

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