Biochemical Applications of Thermophoresis: Investigation of Biomolecular Interactions, Thermal Denaturation, and the Origin of Life
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The directed movement of particles down a temperature gradient, a phenomenon known as thermophoresis, has long been observed and recorded. However, only recently has thermophoresis been put to use in the laboratory for a variety of biophysical applications. The most prominent and successful of these applications include detection of biochemical interactions, analysis of molecular thermal denaturation, and the study of the origin of biomolecules within hydrothermal pores. To detect biochemical interactions, microscale thermophoresis (MST) is performed by setting up a temperature gradient in solution and detecting changes in thermal diffusion induced by binding events. To analyze thermal denaturation of molecules, the molecular movement along a temperature gradient is compared at a range of temperatures and a change in the molecular movement is detected at the melting temperature. Finally, thermophoresis provides insight into the origin of life as it offers a putative explanation for the accumulation and replication of pre-biotic molecules. These novel applications of thermophoresis, at the intersection of the physical and biological sciences, have unique advantages compared to other techniques and hold great potential in the study of many interesting fields of research.
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