Emory's Rolosense wins bronze in Collegiate Inventors Competition

By Carol Clark | eScienceCommons | Nov. 9, 2016

Story image

Emory graduate student Aaron Blanchard (left) and Kevin Yehl, who recently received his PhD in chemistry from Emory, were awarded bronze medals at the recent Collegiate Inventors Competition in Washington. D.C. Photo by the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

Emory University’s Rolosense – the first rolling DNA motor – took the bronze medal in the graduate division of the 2016 Collegiate Inventors Competition, held recently in Washington D.C.

The Rolosense, and its application as a chemical sensor, was developed in the lab of Emory chemist Khalid Salaita by his students Aaron Blanchard and Kevin Yehl. Blanchard is a PhD student in Emory’s Laney Graduate School and the Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME) at Georgia Tech and Emory, while Yehl recently received his PhD in chemistry from Emory.

The Rolosense is the biological equivalent of the invention of the wheel for the field of DNA machines. 

“It’s a completely new approach at using DNA motors for sensing and diagnostics,” Yehl says. “We now hope to keep broadening the scope of the technology and really prove it out in the field.”

The Rolosense is 1,000 times faster than other synthetic DNA motors. Its speed, which is powered by ribonuclease H, means a simple smart phone microscope can capture its motion through video.

The researchers have filed an invention disclosure patent for the concept of using the particle motion of the rolling molecular motor as a sensor for everything from a single DNA mutation in a biological sample to heavy metals in water. It offers a way of doing low-cost, low-tech diagnostics for researchers working in settings with limited resources, or for consumers themselves.

Yehl and Blanchard were one of six teams of graduate students that competed in early November in the finals at the National Inventors Hall of Fame in Washington, D.C.

 The Collegiate Inventors Competition is considered the foremost program in the country encouraging invention and creativity in undergraduate and graduate students. The entries of the elite student teams represent the most promising inventions from U.S. universities.

View Full Story in eScienceCommons »