The star of the show in this approach is a pumpkin-shaped macromolecule that can accommodate two linear “guest molecules” in its “skeleton”. One binds to a specially prepared gold surface, the other stretches its “feelers” out to a specific (diseased) body cell. The links appear to be reversible. Reversing the electrical signal causes cells to bind or to unbind. In some cases it is possible to partially bind the cells.
The researchers (Dr Qi An and PhD students Jenny Brinkmann and Sven Krabbenborg) also want to see whether this method might be useful for detecting specific cells, using “cell fingerprints”.