Monitoring Ion Channel Function in Real Time through Quantum Decoherence

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L. T. Hall, C. D. Hill, J. H. Cole, B. Städler, F. Caruso, P. Mulvaney, J. Wrachtrup, L. C. L. Hollenberg


Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), Vol. 107, no. 44, 18777-18782, 2010

In drug discovery, there is a clear and urgent need for detection of cell-membrane ion-channel operation with wide-field capability. Existing techniques are generally invasive or require specialized nanostructures. We show that quantum nanotechnology could provide a solution. The nitrogen-vacancy (NV) center in nanodiamond is of great interest as a single-atom quantum probe for nanoscale processes. However, until now nothing was known about the quantum behavior of a NV probe in a complex biological environment. We explore the quantum dynamics of a NV probe in proximity to the ion channel, lipid bilayer, and surrounding aqueous environment. Our theoretical results indicate that real-time detection of ion-channel operation at millisecond resolution is possible by directly monitoring the quantum decoherence of the NV probe. With the potential to scan and scale up to an array-based system, this conclusion may have wide-ranging implications for nanoscale biology and drug discovery.