Dying brightly: Fluorescence lights up cells programmed to die

January 25, 2013

Programmed cell death, or apoptosis, occurs tens of millions of times every day in every human body. Researchers in South Korea have devised an easy method to detect apoptotic cells by fluorescence, as they report in Chemistry—An Asian Journal. Their method makes it easier to detect improper biological regulation of apoptosis, which can lead to neurodegenerative diseases, autoimmune diseases, and cancer.

Apoptosis is involved in macroscopic as well. For example, in an embryo, the cells between fingers die by apoptosis to form individual digits, and the tail of a tadpole is resorbed by apoptosis when it metamorphoses into a frog.

Upon apoptosis, the relative composition of the outside and inside of the cell membrane changes, and one component, phosphatidylserine (PS), migrates from the interior to the exterior. Kyo Han Ahn and collaborators at Pohang University of Science and Technology designed an artificial membrane vesicle that fluoresces when it interacts with PS. This so-called is held together by a polydiacetylene backbone and is decorated with zinc atoms at its periphery. The zinc atoms interact with PS but not with other components of the . This interaction distorts the shape of the backbone, causing fluorescence of the liposome. The "turn on" effect eliminates washing steps to remove extra fluorescent marker, making the method easy to use. The selectivity of the interaction means that only apoptotic cells are marked fluorescently. Microscopy images show that the fluorescence is localized on the cell surface, confirming the mode of interaction between liposome and PS.

Explore further: Dominant cholesterol-metabolism ideas challenged by new research

More information: Cho, Y. et al. Turn-On Fluorescence Detection of Apoptotic Cells Using a Zinc(II)-Dipicolylamine-Functionalized Poly(diacetylene) Liposome, Chemistry - An Asian Journal. dx.doi.org/10.1002/asia.201201139

Related Stories

Recommended for you

New electrical energy storage material shows its power

August 24, 2016

A powerful new material developed by Northwestern University chemist William Dichtel and his research team could one day speed up the charging process of electric cars and help increase their driving range.

Calcium channel blockers caught in the act at atomic level

August 24, 2016

An atomic level analysis has revealed how two classes of calcium channel blockers, widely prescribed for heart disease patients, produce separate therapeutic effects through their actions at different sites on the calcium ...

Bio-inspired tire design: Where the rubber meets the road

August 24, 2016

The fascination with the ability of geckos to scamper up smooth walls and hang upside down from improbable surfaces has entranced scientists at least as far back as Aristotle, who noted the reptile's remarkable feats in his ...

Selecting the right house plant could improve indoor air

August 24, 2016

Indoor air pollution is an important environmental threat to human health, leading to symptoms of "sick building syndrome." But researchers report that surrounding oneself with certain house plants could combat the potentially ...

LiH mediates low-temperature ammonia synthesis

August 24, 2016

Nearly half of the world's population is fed by industrial N2 fixation, i. e., the Harbor-Bosch process. Although exergonic in nature, NH3 synthesis from N2 and H2 catalyzed by the fused Fe has to be conducted at elevated ...

0 comments

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.