Close-up of four-channel microphysiometer; Photo by Daniel Dubois, Vanderbilt University
Dale Taylor, Sven Eklund and David Cliffel, left to right, posed next to the four-channel microphysiometer; Photo by Daniel Dubois, Vanderbilt University.
The ability to analyze and defend against novel biological agents has been strengthened by the development of a new device that can monitor the metabolism of living cells in near real time.
"So far we have been lucky that terrorists have used well-known biological agents like anthrax and sarin gas," says David Cliffel, assistant professor of chemistry at Vanderbilt University, who led the development group working under the auspices of the Vanderbilt Institute for Integrative Biosystems Research and Education. "But how will we respond if one of these groups uses recent advances in genetic engineering to produce an agent that is new and unknown?"
Part of the answer, Cliffel says, is the device he and his colleagues have developed, called a four-channel microphysiometer. It is a modification of a 10-year-old commercial device called the Cytosensor made by the company Molecular Devices that measures changes in acidity in a small chamber holding between 100,000 to 1,000,000 individual cells. Cliffel’s research team has added three additional sensors so that the machine can simultaneously chart minute-by-minute variations in the concentrations of oxygen, glucose, and lactic acid, in addition to pH.
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Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
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