Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Technique to Probe Hidden Dynamics of Molecular Biology

05.03.2010
Funded by a $1 million grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation, University of Chicago scientists are aiming to develop a reliable method for determining how biological processes emerge from molecular interactions. The method may permit them to “rewire” the regulatory circuitry of insulin-secreting pancreatic beta cells, which play a major role in type-2 diabetes.

“Despite the enormous amount of study directed at diabetes, there’s really very little understanding of the collective mechanisms that govern or regulate insulin secretion,” said project director Aaron Dinner, Associate Professor in Chemistry.

A second goal: to control cell behavior and function more generally, which may ultimately culminate in other applications, including the bioremediation of environmental problems. Collaborating with Dinner on the project are Louis Philipson, PhD’82, MD ’86, Professor in Medicine and Director of the University of Chicago Kovler Diabetes Center; and chemistry professors Rustem Ismagilov and Norbert Scherer, SB’82.

The four scientists share an interest in the collective behavior of cells that emerges from a complex ensemble of atoms and molecules working in concert at different scales of time and space. “In a living system you have this hierarchy of coupled time and length scales,” Dinner said. “How is it that all of these different dynamics at one time and length scale get coupled to dynamics at another scale?”

The collaborators have worked together previously in various pairs. “It seemed natural to put those different pair-wise interactions together,” Dinner said.

Philipson and Scherer, for example, worked together to pioneer a microscopy method for imaging activity inside beta cells that led up to insulin secretion under different conditions. Ismagilov and Philipson collaborated on a means of efficiently measuring and analyzing beta-cell secretions. And Dinner and Scherer have analyzed the dynamics of an oddly behaving RNA molecule.

Non-intuitive molecular behavior

Dinner and Scherer’s study revealed some non-intuitive, hidden dynamics. They experimented with the molecule in solution, expecting it to move slowly, somewhat like a person walking around in a swimming pool. But after changing the chemical solution they found that the molecule behaved in a non-intuitive way.

“It was as though something was driving it,” Dinner said.

The chemical pulses they had introduced into the molecule’s watery environment were the driving force of the dynamic oscillations they observed. In their next step, they applied the process to a bacterium, coupling cycles inside the cell that would ordinarily operate on different time scales. The scientists then analyzed the bacterium’s response to the chemical pulses for insights into its internal properties.

The similar use of optical, magnetic and spectroscopic techniques is a standard means of probing molecular dynamics. Based on their RNA research, Scherer and Dinner realized that a chemical version of the technique might provide a whole new way of studying cellular dynamics. They call their new technique “chemical perturbation spectroscopy.”

“We measure everything at a single-cell level so we can quantify in detail what each single cell is doing as it evolves through multiple generations,” Scherer said. “These studies are allowing us to lay the groundwork for how to measure perturbations that we apply to cells, and how to do the analysis. Essentially, none of this has been done before, so we have to invent the approach.”

Once the details are worked out, Scherer said, “We expect to be able to target certain cell functions and, let’s say, increase insulin output from the beta cells.”

Steve Koppes | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.uchicago.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Multi-institutional collaboration uncovers how molecular machines assemble
02.12.2016 | Salk Institute

nachricht Fertilized egg cells trigger and monitor loss of sperm’s epigenetic memory
02.12.2016 | IMBA - Institut für Molekulare Biotechnologie der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften GmbH

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

Im Focus: Fraunhofer ISE Develops Highly Compact, High Frequency DC/DC Converter for Aviation

The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

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

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

UTSA study describes new minimally invasive device to treat cancer and other illnesses

02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering

Plasma-zapping process could yield trans fat-free soybean oil product

02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

What do Netflix, Google and planetary systems have in common?

02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>