Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Fewer animal experiments thanks to nanosensors

02.01.2012
Experiments on animals have been the subject of criticism for decades, but there is no prospect of a move away from them any time soon. The number of tests involving laboratory animals has in fact gone up. Now, researchers have found an alternative approach: they hope sensor nanoparticles will reduce the need for animal testing.

Countless mice, rats and rabbits die every year in the name of science – and the situation is getting worse.


The yellow nanosensor signal in the overlay image (right) shows that the cells are active. If they were unhealthy, they would appear much redder. Center: the indicator dye signal. Left: the reference dye signal. © Fraunhofer EMFT

While German laboratories used some 2.41 million animals for scientific research in 2005, by 2009 this number had grown to 2.79 million. One third were destined for fundamental biology research, and the majority were used for researching diseases and developing medical compounds and devices. People demand medicines that are safe and therapies that are tolerable, but hardly anyone is happy to accept the need for animal testing.

This is why scientists have spent years looking for methods that can replace them. Now researchers at the Fraunhofer Research Institution for Modular Solid State Technologies EMFT in Munich have found an alternative: they hope to use novel nanosensors to reduce the number of experiments that are carried out on animals. “We’re basically using a test tube to study the effects of chemicals and their potential risks. What we do is take living cells, which were isolated from human and animal tissue and grown in cell cultures, and expose them to the substance under investigation,” explains Dr. Jennifer Schmidt of the EMFT. If a given concentration of the substance is poisonous to the cell, it will die. This change in “well-being” can be rendered visible by the sensor nanoparticles developed by Dr. Schmidt and her team.

Cells – the tiniest living things – that are healthy store energy in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). High levels of ATP are indicative of high levels of metabolic activity in cells. If a cell is severely damaged, it becomes less active, storing less energy and consequently producing less ATP. “Our nanosensors allow us to detect adenosine triphosphate and determine the state of health of cells. This makes it possible to assess the cell-damaging effects of medical compounds or chemicals,” says Schmidt.

In order for the nanoparticles to register the ATP, researchers give them two fluorescent dyes: a green indicator dye that is sensitive to ATP, and a red reference dye that does not change color. Next, the scientists introduce the particles to living cells and observe them under a fluorescence microscope. The degree to which the particles light up depends on the quantity of ATP present. The more yellow is visible in the overlay image, the more active are the cells. If their health were impaired, the overlay image would appear much redder. “We could in future use cancer cells to test the effectiveness of newly developed chemotherapy agents. If the nanosensors detect a low concentration of ATP in the cells, we’ll know that the new treatment is either inhibiting tumor cell growth or even killing them,” says Schmidt. “The most promising agents could then be studied further.”

The EMFT researchers’ nanoparticles are extremely well suited to the task at hand: they are not poisonous to cells, they can easily pass through cell membranes, and they can even be directed to particular points where the effect of the test substance is of most interest. But before this procedure can be applied, it must first be approved by the regulatory authorities – so the EMFT experts have a long journey ahead of them to gain approvals from various official bodies. This prospect has not, however, stopped the researchers from refining the technology and coming up with new applications for it – for instance to test the quality of packaged meat and its fitness for consumption. To this end they have developed nanosensors that can determine concentrations of oxygen and toxic amines.

Dr. rer. nat. Gerhard Mohr | Fraunhofer Research News
Further information:
http://www.fraunhofer.de/en/press/research-news/2012/january/fewer_animal_experimentsthankstonanosensors-researchnewsjanuary2.html

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Single-stranded DNA and RNA origami go live
15.12.2017 | Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard

nachricht New antbird species discovered in Peru by LSU ornithologists
15.12.2017 | Louisiana State University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: First-of-its-kind chemical oscillator offers new level of molecular control

DNA molecules that follow specific instructions could offer more precise molecular control of synthetic chemical systems, a discovery that opens the door for engineers to create molecular machines with new and complex behaviors.

Researchers have created chemical amplifiers and a chemical oscillator using a systematic method that has the potential to embed sophisticated circuit...

Im Focus: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.

Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Engineers program tiny robots to move, think like insects

15.12.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

One in 5 materials chemistry papers may be wrong, study suggests

15.12.2017 | Materials Sciences

New antbird species discovered in Peru by LSU ornithologists

15.12.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>