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 Microscope measures muscle weakness
16.11.2018 | Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg

nachricht Good preparation is half the digestion
16.11.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Stoffwechselforschung

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: UNH scientists help provide first-ever views of elusive energy explosion

Researchers at the University of New Hampshire have captured a difficult-to-view singular event involving "magnetic reconnection"--the process by which sparse particles and energy around Earth collide producing a quick but mighty explosion--in the Earth's magnetotail, the magnetic environment that trails behind the planet.

Magnetic reconnection has remained a bit of a mystery to scientists. They know it exists and have documented the effects that the energy explosions can...

Im Focus: A Chip with Blood Vessels

Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.

Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...

Im Focus: A Leap Into Quantum Technology

Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.

In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...

Im Focus: Research icebreaker Polarstern begins the Antarctic season

What does it look like below the ice shelf of the calved massive iceberg A68?

On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.

Im Focus: Penn engineers develop ultrathin, ultralight 'nanocardboard'

When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure

Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

“3rd Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP 2018” Attracts International Experts and Users

09.11.2018 | Event News

On the brain’s ability to find the right direction

06.11.2018 | Event News

European Space Talks: Weltraumschrott – eine Gefahr für die Gesellschaft?

23.10.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Purdue cancer identity technology makes it easier to find a tumor's 'address'

16.11.2018 | Health and Medicine

Good preparation is half the digestion

16.11.2018 | Life Sciences

Microscope measures muscle weakness

16.11.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>