More Science See Inside The Promise Of Molecular Imprinting Tiny plastic imprints and mimics of biological molecules are poised to speed drug discovery, warn of bioterror attacks and remove toxins from the environment, among other applications By Klaus Mosbach WEBB CHAPPELL More than three decades ago my students and I at Lund University in Sweden, along with other teams, developed fishing nets of sorts that worked at the nanometer scale. The nets we created could trap living cells and, later, smaller biological entities, such as enzymes or other molecules. Under the right conditions, our catches could continue to do their usual tasks outside of living organisms for months. The technology proved attractive for dozens of applications [see Enzymes Bound to Artificial Matrixes, by Klaus Mosbach; SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, March 1971]. For instance, plastic nets containing Escherichia coli cells are used today to produce aspartic acid, an amino acid used in the preparation of various medicines. In the food industry, plastic embedded with a specific enzyme converts the sugar glucose into fructose, which is much sweeter. A different net-and-enzyme combination has even helped to fabricate the precursors of the plastic material that makes up the nets. And, to our delight, potential applications for the traps keep arising, including in medicine. Notably, cells held in the nets might replace ones that have died or malfunctioned, such as the insulin-producing cells that are needed by diabetics. This is only a preview. Get the rest of this article now! Select an option below: Buy Digital Issue Customer Sign In *You must have purchased this issue or have a qualifying subscription to access this content It has been identified that the institution you are trying to access this article from has institutional site license access to Scientific American on nature.com. Click here to access this article in its entirety through site license access. ADVERTISEMENT Scientific American is a trademark of Scientific American, Inc., used with permission © 2013 Scientific American, a Division of Nature America, Inc. All Rights Reserved.