Scientists chart rapid advances of fluorescent tools for life-science research

Apr 13, 2006

An interdisciplinary team of biological imaging experts from the University of California, San Diego has published a review of fluorescent imaging technologies and underscored the importance of those technologies to major advances in the life sciences. The article--"The Fluorescent Toolbox for Assessing Protein Location and Function"--is the cover story in the April 14 issue of the journal Science.

"Fluorescent imaging is critical to the observation of dynamic processes in living systems," said lead author Ben Giepmans, a research scientist in the UCSD-based National Center for Microscopy and Imaging Research (NCMIR). "Some of these techniques now also allow researchers to localize the responsible molecular machine in situ by electron microscopy."

Giepmans' co-authors on the Science paper include NCMIR director and UCSD School of Medicine neurosciences professor Mark Ellisman, pharmacology project scientist Stephen Adams, and Roger Tsien, professor of pharmacology, chemistry and biochemistry. The National Institutes of Health and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute supported work directly related to this review.

In their survey, the scientists contrasted the characteristic benefits and limitations of many new classes of fluorescent probes for studying proteins, including quantum dots, fluorescent proteins, and some genetic tags. Color-rich photomicrographs now routinely appear in scientific journals to illustrate dynamic biochemical processes. Those processes range from the expression of a specific gene to the redistribution of protein within a living cell.

Progress in developing new fluorescent probes over the last decade has been dramatic. "Whole new classes of fluorescent dyes, fluorescent proteins, and other hybrid probes are being engineered to illuminate specific biochemical structures and processes within living cells," said Ellisman. "They also make possible the direct correlated imaging of the underlying molecular complexes at higher resolution by electron microscopy."

Fluorescence imaging is rapidly becoming a biochemist's tool of choice for studying processes within living cells. Its rapid expansion is partially tied to a synergy of developments, including the increasing ease of implementing innovative targeting strategies to key cell metabolites and structures. Concomitant advances in instrumentation and data analysis are enabling scientists to identify and quantify dynamic biochemical processes of living cells under light and electron microscopes. Fluorescence techniques are being adapted for clinical and biochemical assays like biopsies and high-throughput drug screening, and are just beginning to find wider application in functional assays of living cells and animals.

Source: University of California - San Diego

Explore further: Explainer: How to solve a jewel heist (and why it takes so long)

Related Stories

Chameleon proteins make individual cells visible

May 19, 2015

Researchers discovered a new mechanism of how fluorescent proteins can change colour. It enables the microscopic visualization of individual cells in their three-dimensional environment in living organisms.

Upside down and inside out

Apr 27, 2015

Researchers have captured the first 3D video of a living algal embryo turning itself inside out, from a sphere to a mushroom shape and back again. The results could help unravel the mechanical processes at ...

Recommended for you

Top UK scientists warn against EU exit

May 22, 2015

A group of leading British scientists including Nobel-winning geneticist Paul Nurse warned leaving the European Union could threaten research funding, in a letter published in The Times newspaper on Friday.

How we discovered the three revolutions of American pop

May 22, 2015

Dr Matthias Mauch discusses his recent scientific analysis of the "fossil record" of the Billboard charts prompted widespread attention, particularly the findings about the three musical "revolutions" that shaped the musical la ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.