Scientists improve metal detectors for early diagnosis of lifestyle and age-related diseases

Jul 04, 2014
The photo shows one of the probes in cellular membranes of pancreatic cells

(Phys.org) —Sensors created by chemists at Queen Mary University of London could lead to a set of new tools for researchers to investigate conditions like diabetes resulting in earlier diagnosis and new treatments.

Scientists increasingly recognise that the metal zinc plays an important role in a number of diseases such as, Alzhemier's, Type-2 diabetes, and (blindness). However, the metal can be hard to observe directly.

"We know that zinc is involved in a number of processes within the body and it's also known to be associated with many diseases," said co-author Professor Mike Watkinson from QMUL's School of Biological and Chemical Sciences. 

"But we don't understand whether zinc is the cause or the consequence. Better imaging tools would help us investigate the role of zinc in biological systems, and understand its role in diseases."

Publishing in the Royal Society of Chemistry journal Chemical Science, the researchers propose a simple, quick method to generate sensors, which can detect zinc in living when insulin, the hormone that controls the body's level of glucose, is released.

The sensors use a binding mechanism to detect the presence of the metal in specific parts of the cells, which is a significant improvement on current methods that use fluorescence to detect zinc but can't pinpoint its exact location. Variations of the sensors were trialled in test tubes to ensure they worked correctly before testing on pancreatic cells to demonstrate their effectiveness.

Co-author Dr Stephen Goldup, also from QMUL's School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, said: "By developing this new easy approach to targeted sensors, we hope to inspire a new generation of targeted imaging agents with optimised function as tools for the biological investigation of and other metal ions."

Explore further: Researchers identify how zinc regulates a key enzyme involved in cell death

More information: Biologically targeted probes for Zn2+: a diversity oriented modular "click-SNAr-click" approach, pubs.rsc.org/en/Content/Articl… g/2014/SC/C4SC01249F

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hrfJC
not rated yet Jul 04, 2014
High resolution imaging may be an excellent approach for detection of zinc in cell clusters in diabetes. Iron clusters also have been reported in vivo in abnormal brain cells in neurological diseases like AD and dementia with possible extension to damage from concussions
Mike_Massen
not rated yet Jul 06, 2014
Zinc is adjacent to Copper in the periodic table, the body relies on approx 200 enzymes which either have copper in their structure or rely on copper as a co-factor consequently, its surprising researches don't seem to either appreciate this step or have missed a classic risk-assessment strategy in terms of tactics to progress specifics in relation to experimental methods to advance the permutation space in respect of 'some' metalloid enzymes (of which there are many), if at least in terms of excluding copper/zinc based enzymes in their exception/function list methodology - to enable earnest focus upon their hypothesis... (sigh)

Thanks, a good update from phys.org, so far, more expected - I hope :-)