Exploration by explosion: Studying the inner realm of living cells

Nov 11, 2009
A tiny glass fiber is used to vaporize contents of cells to study the cell contents. Credit: American Chemical Society

Scientists in Washington, DC, are reporting development and successful tests of a new way for exploring the insides of living cells, the microscopic building blocks of all known plants and animals. They explode the cell while it is still living inside a plant or animal, vaporize its contents, and sniff. The study appears in online in ACS' journal Analytical Chemistry.

Akos Vertes and Bindesh Shrestha note that knowing the contents of is the key to understanding how healthy cells differ from those in disease. Until now, however, the only way to "look" inside an individual cell was to remove it from its natural environment in an animal or plant, or change its environment. But doing so changed the cell. Scientists never knew whether one cell differed from another because of the disease, or because they had removed it to a new environment.

The new report describes development of a new technique that uses focused through a tiny to explode a cell and turn its contents into vapor. Scientists then use a laboratory instrument to analyze the vapor and get a profile of the chemicals inside. It can reveal differences between diseased and healthy cells, even between adjacent cells in the same tissue.

The scientists used this new technique to analyze the contents of living plant and animal cells and show that it quickly and accurately identified important chemical details that would have been overlooked using conventional techniques.

More information: "In Situ Metabolic Profiling of Single Cells by Laser Ablation Electrospray Ionization ", ,
pubs.acs.org/stoken/presspac/presspac/full/10.1021/ac901525g

Source: American Chemical Society (news : web)

Explore further: A closer look at a deadly bacterium sets the stage for new vaccines

Related Stories

A new metal detector to study human disease

Mar 21, 2006

Zinc may be a familiar dietary supplement to millions of health-conscious people, but it remains a mystery metal to scientists who study zinc’s role in Alzheimer’s disease, stroke and other health problems.

An inexpensive 'dipstick' test for pesticides in foods

Nov 04, 2009

Scientists in Canada are reporting the development of a fast, inexpensive "dipstick" test to identify small amounts of pesticides that may exist in foods and beverages. Their paper-strip test is more practical ...

Plant cells 'black out' when eaten by leafworms

Mar 14, 2006

This "electrical black out" drastically reduces the ability of the plant's cells to react and protect themselves against getting eaten by the leafworm. The scientists are now trying to determine the identity, ...

Recommended for you

What happens inside a membrane

May 20, 2015

A new SISSA study has achieved two important results with a single effort: to devise an innovative method to analyse the structure of biological proteins immersed in their physiological context, and to closely ...

Biomedical sensors for disease detection made simple

May 19, 2015

Healthcare researchers are increasingly focused on the early detection and prevention of illnesses. Early and accurate diagnosis is vital, especially for people in developing countries where infectious diseases ...

Studying dynamics of ion channels

May 18, 2015

Scientists from the Vaziri lab at the Vienna Biocenter, together with colleagues at the Institute for Biophysical Dynamics at the University of Chicago, have developed a method using infrared spectroscopy ...

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.