Now you can watch what cells do, as they do it

August 29th, 2008 - 12:17 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Aug 29 (IANS) Researchers have developed a new laser tool to to peer into the microscopic activity within single cells in real time. The cutting edge technology could help contribute to the creation of new drugs to treat diseases like asthma and arthritis with fewer side effects.The researchers from Nottingham University Schools of Biomedical Science (Steve Hill and Steve Briddon) and Pharmacy (Barrie Kellam) are concentrating on a type of specialised cell receptor that recognises and responds to a chemical within the body called adenosine.

These A3-adenosine receptors work within the body by binding with proteins to cause a response within cells and are found in very tiny and highly specialised area of a cell membrane called microdomains. They comprise different molecules that are involved in telling the cell how to respond to drugs or hormones.

It is believed that these receptors play an important role in inflammation within the body and knowing more about how they operate could spur the future development of anti-inflammatory drugs that only target just those receptors in the relevant microdomain of the cell.

“These microdomains are so tiny you could fit five million of them on a full stop. There are 10,000 receptors on each cell, and we are able to follow how single drug molecules bind to individual receptors in these specialised microdomains,” said Hill.

“What makes this single molecule laser technique unique is that we are looking at them in real time on a living cell. Other techniques that investigate how drugs bind to their receptors require many millions of cells to get a big enough signal and this normally involves destroying the cells in the process,” he added.

Scientists have never before been able to look in detail at their activity within these tiny microscopic regions of a living cell.

Nottingham researchers have solved this problem by using a cutting edge laser technology called fluorescence correlation spectroscopy. The fluorescent drug molecules can be detected as they glow under the laser beam of a highly sensitive microscope.

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