Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Technology
Networks
Scientific Communities
 
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article
  News
Return

Watching Molecules ‘Dance’ in Real Time

Published: Friday, August 29, 2014
Last Updated: Friday, August 29, 2014
Bookmark and Share
Trapping light at the nanoscale enables real-time monitoring of individual molecules bending and flexing may aid in our understanding of how changes within a cell can lead to diseases such as cancer.

A new method which uses tightly confined light trapped between gold mirrors a billionth of a metre apart to watch molecules ‘dancing’ in real time could help researchers uncover many of the cell processes that are essential to all life, and how small changes to these processes can lead to diseases such as cancer or Alzheimer’s.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge have demonstrated how to use light to view individual molecules bending and flexing as they move through a model cell membrane, in order to better understand the inner workings of cells. Details are published in the journal Scientific Reports.

The membrane is vital to the normal functioning of cells; keeping viruses out but allowing select molecules, such as drugs, to get through. This critical front line of cellular defence is made up of a layer of fatty lipids, just a few nanometres (one billionth of a metre) thick.

When the cell membrane is damaged however, unwanted invaders can march into the cell. Many degenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cystic fibrosis and muscular dystrophy are believed to originate from damage to the cell membrane.

The ability to watch how individual lipid molecules interact with their environment can help researchers understand not only how these and other diseases behave at their earliest stages, but also many of the fundamental biological processes which are key to all life.

In order to view the behaviour of the cell membrane at the level of individual molecules, the Cambridge team, working with researchers from the University of Leeds, squeezed them into a tiny gap between  the mirrored gold facets of a nanoparticle sitting just above a flat gold surface.

Through highly precise control of the geometry of the nanostructures, and using Raman spectroscopy, an ultra-sensitive molecular identification technique, the light can be trapped between the mirrors, allowing the researchers to ‘fingerprint’ individual molecules. “It’s like having an extremely powerful magnifying glass made out of gold,” said Professor Jeremy Baumberg of the NanoPhotonics Centre at Cambridge’s Cavendish Laboratory, who led the research.

Analysing the colours of the light which is scattered by the mirrors allowed the different vibrations of each molecule to be seen within this intense optical field. “Probing such delicate biological samples with light allows us to watch these dancing molecules for hours without changing or destroying them,” said co-author Felix Benz. The molecules stand shoulder to shoulder like trees in a forest, while a few jitter around sideways.

By continuously observing the scattered light, individual molecules are seen moving in and out of the tiny gaps between the mirrors. Carefully analysis of the signatures from different parts of each molecule allowed any changes in the molecule shape to be observed, which helps to understand how their reaction sites can be uncovered when they are at work. Most excitingly the team says these flexing and bending motions are not expected to occur at the slow time scales of the experiment, allowing the researchers  to make videos of their progress.

“It is completely astonishing to watch the molecules change shape in real time,” said Richard Taylor, lead author of the paper.

The new insights from this work suggest ways to unveil processes which are essential to all life and understand how small changes to these processes can cause disease.

The research was funded by the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the European Research Council.


Further Information
Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,400+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More Than 3,700+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters


Sign In



Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into TechnologyNetworks.com you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

New Consortium to Develop and Study Early Stage Drugs
An innovative new Consortium will act as a ‘match-making’ service between pharmaceutical companies and researchers in Cambridge with the aim of developing and studying precision medicines for some of the most globally devastating diseases.
Thursday, July 30, 2015
MRSA Contamination Found in Supermarket Pork
A survey carried out earlier this year has found the first evidence of the ‘superbug’ bacteria Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) in sausages and minced pork obtained from supermarkets in the UK.
Monday, June 22, 2015
Expression of Certain Genes Changes with the Seasons
As the seasons change, so do the expression levels of many human genes, including ones involved in immune function, according to new research.
Thursday, May 14, 2015
Blood Markers Could Help Predict Outcome Of Infant Heart Surgery
New research suggests it may be possible to predict an infant’s progress following surgery for congenital heart disease by analysing a number of important small molecules in the blood.
Friday, May 08, 2015
Poisons, Plants and Palaeolithic Hunters
Dr Valentina Borgia to develop a technique for detecting residues of deadly substances on archaeological objects.
Saturday, April 11, 2015
‘Mini-Lungs’ Grown To Aid The Study Of Cystic Fibrosis
'Mini-lungs’ have been created using stem cells derived from skin cells of patients with cystic fibrosis.
Thursday, March 19, 2015
Gene Discovery Provides Clues To How TB May Evade The Immune System
The largest genetic study of TB susceptibility to date has led to a potentially important new insight into how the pathogen manages to evade the immune system.
Tuesday, March 17, 2015
Human Genome Includes 'Foreign' Genes Not From Our Ancestors
Many animals, including humans, acquired essential ‘foreign’ genes from microorganisms co-habiting their environment in ancient times, according to research published in the open access journal Genome Biology.
Monday, March 16, 2015
Order Matters: Sequence Of Genetic Mutations Determines How Cancer Behaves
The order in which genetic mutations are acquired determines how an individual cancer behaves, according to research from the University of Cambridge, published today in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Thursday, February 12, 2015
Artificially-intelligent Robot Scientist ‘Eve’ Could Boost Search for New Drugs
Eve, an artificially-intelligent ‘robot scientist’ could make drug discovery faster and much cheaper, say researchers writing in the Royal Society journal Interface.
Wednesday, February 04, 2015
Using Genome Sequencing to Track MRSA in Under-resourced Hospitals
Whole genome sequencing of MRSA from a hospital in Asia has demonstrated patterns of transmission in a resource-limited setting, where formal screening procedures are not feasible.
Thursday, December 11, 2014
Amazing Feet Of Science: Researchers Sequence The Centipede Genome
What it lacks in genes, it certainly makes up for in legs: the genome of the humble centipede has been found to have around 15,000 genes – around 7,000 fewer than a human.
Wednesday, November 26, 2014
Molecular Event Mapping Opens Door to more in silico Tests
It is hoped that this new approach to mapping and predicting the impact of chemical compounds in the body could reduce the need for toxicity tests in animals.
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Drugging the Undruggable
Discovery opens up possibility of slowing cancer spread.
Wednesday, November 12, 2014
Imaging The Genome
University of Cambridge study allows researchers to peer into unexplored regions of the genome and understand the role played by more than 250 genes.
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Scientific News
Liquid Biopsies: Utilization of Circulating Biomarkers for Minimally Invasive Diagnostics Development
Market Trends in Biofluid-based Liquid Biopsies: Deploying Circulating Biomarkers in the Clinic. Enal Razvi, Ph.D., Managing Director, Select Biosciences, Inc.
Lab-on-a-Chip Offers Promise for TB and Asthma Patients
A device to mix liquids using ultrasonics is the first and most difficult component in a miniaturized system for low-cost analysis of sputum from patients with pulmonary diseases such as tuberculosis and asthma.
Intracellular Microlasers Could Allow Precise Labeling of up to a Trillion Individual Cells
MGH investigators have induced structures incorporated within individual cells to produce laser light at wavelengths that differ based on the size, shape and composition of each microlaser, allowing precise labeling of individual cells.
Real-Time Imaging of Lung Lesions During Surgery
Targeted molecular agents cause lung adenocarcinomas to fluoresce during surgery, according to pilot report.
Watching a Tumour Grow in Real-Time
Researchers from the University of Freiburg have gained new insight into the phases of breast cancer growth.
Protein Related to Long Term Traumatic Brain Injury Complications Discovered
NIH-study shows protein found at higher levels in military members who have suffered multiple TBIs.
Childhood Cancer Cells Drain Immune System’s Batteries
Cancer cells in neuroblastoma contain a molecule that breaks down a key energy source for the body’s immune cells, leaving them too physically drained to fight the disease.
Urine Proteins Point to Early-Stage Pancreatic Cancer
A combination of three proteins found at high levels in urine can accurately detect early-stage pancreatic cancer, researchers at the BCI have shown.
Researcher Discovers Trigger of Deadly Melanoma
New research sheds light on the precise trigger that causes melanoma cancer cells to transform from non-invasive cells to invasive killer agents, pinpointing the precise place in the process where "traveling" cancer turns lethal.
New Vaccine For Chlamydia to Use Synthetic Biology
Prokarium Ltd, a biotechnology company developing transformational oral vaccines, have announced new funding from SynbiCITE, the UK’s Innovation and Knowledge Centre for Synthetic Biology.
Scroll Up
Scroll Down
Skyscraper Banner

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
 
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,400+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
3,700+ scientific videos
Close
Premium CrownJOIN TECHNOLOGY NETWORKS PREMIUM FREE!