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BIONANO

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Molecular modeling with NAMD (NAnoscale Molecular Dynamics) promises to become a key methodology for research and development in bionanotechnology. Molecular modeling provides nanoscale images at atomic and even electronic resolution, predicts the nanoscale interaction of yet unfamiliar combinations of biological and inorganic materials, and can evaluate strategies for redesigning biopolymers for nanotechnological uses. The methodology's value has been reviewed for three uses in bionanotechnology. The first involves the use of single-walled carbon nanotubes as biomedical sensors where a computationally efficient, yet accurate description of the influence of biomolecules on nanotube electronic properties and a description of nanotube - biomolecule interactions were developed; this development furnishes the ability to test nanotube electronic properties in realistic biological environments (see Dec 2005 highlight). The second case study involves the use of nanopores manufactured into electronic nanodevices based on silicon compounds for single molecule electrical recording, in particular, for DNA sequencing. Here, modeling combining classical molecular dynamics, material science, and device physics, describes the interaction of biopolymers, e.g., DNA, with silicon nitrate and silicon oxide pores, furnishes accurate dynamic images of pore translocation processes, and predicts signals (see Nov 2005 and Oct 2004 highlights). The third case involves the development of nanoscale lipid bilayers for the study of embedded membrane proteins and cholesterol. Molecular modeling tested scaffold proteins, redesigned lipoproteins found in mammalian plasma that hold the discoidal membranes in shape, and predicted the assembly as well as final structure of the nanodiscs (see Feb 2005 highlight). In entirely new technological areas like bionanotechnology qualitative concepts, pictures, and suggestions are sorely needed; the three exemplary applications document that molecular modeling can serve as a critical "imaging" method for bionanotechnology, even though it may still fall short on quantitative precision.