From Berkeley Lab: “Molecular Spectroscopy Tracks Living Mammalian Cells in Real Time as They Differentiate”


Berkeley Lab

Berkeley Lab scientists demonstrate the promise of synchrotron infrared spectroscopy of living cells for medical applications

April 30, 2012
Paul Preuss

“Knowing how a living cell works means knowing how the chemistry inside the cell changes as the functions of the cell change. Protein phosphorylation, for example, controls everything from cell proliferation to differentiation to metabolism to signaling, and even programmed cell death (apoptosis), in cells from bacteria to humans. It’s a chemical process that has long been intensively studied, not least in hopes of treating or eliminating a wide range of diseases. But until now the close-up view – watching phosphorylation work at the molecular level as individual cells change over time – has been impossible without damaging the cells or interfering with the very processes that are being examined.

‘To look into phosphorylation, researchers have labeled specific phosphorylated proteins with antibodies that carry fluorescent dyes,’ says Hoi-Ying Holman of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab). That gives you a great image, but you have to know exactly what to label before you can even begin.’

‘Now we can follow cellular chemical changes without preconceived notions of what they might be,’ says Holman, a pioneer in infrared (IR) studies of living cells who is director of the Berkeley Synchrotron Infrared Structural Biology program at Berkeley Lab’s Advanced Light Source (ALS) and head of the Chemical Ecology Research group in the Earth Sciences Division . ‘We’ve monitored unlabeled living cells by studying the nonperturbing absorption of a wide spectrum of bright synchrotron infrared radiation from the ALS.’ “

cell work
Berkeley Lab scientists observed phosphorylation in living PC12 cells stimulated by nerve growth factor as they differentiated and sent out neuron-like neurites. The researchers imaged individual cells and simultaneously obtained absorption spectra using synchrotron radiation from the Advanced Light Source. Cells not stimulated with nerve growth factor did not differentiate and showed different infrared absorption spectra. No image credit

There is a whole lot more to this article. See the full article here.

A U.S. Department of Energy National Laboratory Operated by the University of California

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