Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Scientists at the UJI design a fluorescent sensor capable of measuring intracellular acidity


The colouring agents traditionally used to stain organic tissues are no longer sufficient to meet today’s needs. The study of cell metabolism can only advance with better tools than those currently available. It has become necessary to observe smaller things at lower concentrations and one of these things is the degree of intracellular acidity or pH. Any organism works at pH levels close to those of ordinary water, but there are certain biological processes that take place in unusually acidic areas. Until now it has been impossible to carry out a thorough study of these processes because of the lack of optimal instruments with which to measure acidity. However, this is beginning to change. Working in collaboration with scientists from the University of East Anglia (UK), researchers at the Universitat Jaume I (UJI) in Castellón, Spain, have developed a fluorescent molecule that measures intracellular pH.

The molecule works like a luminous thermometer in which bulbs light up or go out as changes in temperature take place. In this case, the intensity of the fluorescent light given off by the molecule varies according to the level of acidity of the sample, that is, the lower the acidity, the less light is emitted, and vice versa. The sensitivity of the sensor designed by the scientists at the Department of Inorganic and Organic Chemistry at the UJI ranges from pH6 to 4, which is an acidity value half a point higher than previous sensors were capable of measuring.

One of the advantages of the molecule is that, because it is a pseudoprotein, it is compatible with living organisms. For the researchers, the fluorescent molecule is a fundamental tool for the study of certain biological processes associated to high levels of acidity. This is the case, for example, of cellular processes involving nitric oxide, a compound that is linked to many physiological processes such as the control of blood pressure and contraction of the heart muscle.

“This nitric oxide can act in different ways, depending on the pH of the organelle it is located in. Therefore, unless we know the value of the pH we are working in, we will never be able to define exactly how the nitric oxide is behaving. And this is something that is essential in cell metabolism,” explains Santiago Luis Lafuente, Professor of Organic Chemistry at the UJI and head of the research team. Thus, this new molecule will allow researchers to gain further knowledge about the role of nitric oxide in both normal and pathological cell processes.

The researchers also believe that in the future the acidity sensor could be used as a tool to diagnose cancer, since it has been observed that tumorous cells have a higher degree of acidity than normal ones, “so cancerous tissue could be characterised as a tissue where there is a variation in the pH level,” says Santiago Luis. The researchers also point out, however, that the use of the acidity sensor in the early detection of cancerous cells is, at the present time, still only a possibility and far from being a reality.

The study, recently reported in the Journal Angewandte chemie International edition, was conducted by the researchers Francisco Galindo, Mª Isabel Burguete, Laura Vigara, Santiago V. Luis, from the Universitat Jaume I, and Nurul Kabir, Jelena Gavrilovic and David A. Russel, from the University of East Anglia.

Hugo Cerdà | alfa
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Novel mechanisms of action discovered for the skin cancer medication Imiquimod
21.10.2016 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Second research flight into zero gravity
21.10.2016 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>