Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New chemistry method uses ’test tubes’ far smaller than the width of a hair

30.08.2005


Using a water droplet 1 trillion times smaller than a liter of club soda as a sort of nanoscale test tube, a University of Washington scientist is conducting chemical analysis and experimentation at unprecedented tiny scales.




The method captures a single cell, or even a small subcellular structure called an organelle, within a droplet. It then employs a powerful laser microscope to study the contents and examine chemical processes, and a laser beam is used to manipulate the cell or even just a few molecules, combining them with other molecules to form new substances.

This nanoscale "laboratory" is so minuscule that it covers just 1 percent of the width of a human hair, said Daniel Chiu, a UW associate chemistry professor who is developing the unique method.


"Anything you can do in the test tube we hope to be able to do in the droplet. We just don’t need a lot of cells. We don’t even need one cell, just a few molecules," Chiu said.

The new approach makes it easier to get a wide range of information about a cell. Researchers typically use microscopy to see how proteins move within a cell and collect spatial information, but that provides very little biochemical information, Chiu said. Likewise, they can use large amounts of material in a test tube to understand biochemical processes, but that doesn’t provide the fine detail of microscopy.

"The cell is very small but it is very complex," Chiu said. "It has many hundreds of thousands of proteins. It is probably the ultimate nanomachine."

The new method, employing a process called microfluidics, allows researchers to perform chemical analysis and to study structure and form at the same time.

The tiny droplet is contained in a microfluidic device, which is far too small to be seen with the naked eye and is mounted on a platform about the size of a dime so researchers can carry it from one place to another. The device has water in one channel and oil in an adjoining channel. The target – a cell, an organelle or just a few molecules – is placed at the interface between the oil and water using a laser beam, so the target is encapsulated as the water droplet is formed.

Once the droplet captures its target, it is held fast while researchers use lasers to manipulate it and conduct analysis and experimentation.

"If you have 10 molecules that you’re interested in, you can combine those with other molecules to make new molecules," Chiu said. "You can control their reactivity, move them and combine them if they are confined in a droplet. As soon as you put them in a test tube, they’re diffused and you lose the ability to see them."

Chiu presents his work Monday during a session of the American Chemical Society’s fall meeting in Washington, D.C.

The new method allows researchers to address specific biological questions that cannot be answered by testing in large quantities in the test tube, such as how organelles within a cell differ from each other, or how different proteins are expressed within the same cell, Chiu said.

"At this point it is still limited to fundamental biological studies," he said. "It provides finer, higher resolution than working with standard test tubes. There are things you cannot find out in bulk, and every cell and organelle is different."

Currently Chiu is focused on continuing development of the process, essentially creating a nanoscale test tube. But he believes the process holds great promise for future chemical and biological research.

"We’re still trying to develop the process and to understand the chemistry at this small scale, which could be very different from chemistry at the macro scale," he said.

Vince Stricherz | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.washington.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Protein interaction helps Yersinia cause disease
21.08.2018 | Schwedischer Forschungsrat - The Swedish Research Council

nachricht Nanobot pumps destroy nerve agents
21.08.2018 | American Chemical Society

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: It’s All in the Mix: Jülich Researchers are Developing Fast-Charging Solid-State Batteries

There are currently great hopes for solid-state batteries. They contain no liquid parts that could leak or catch fire. For this reason, they do not require cooling and are considered to be much safer, more reliable, and longer lasting than traditional lithium-ion batteries. Jülich scientists have now introduced a new concept that allows currents up to ten times greater during charging and discharging than previously described in the literature. The improvement was achieved by a “clever” choice of materials with a focus on consistently good compatibility. All components were made from phosphate compounds, which are well matched both chemically and mechanically.

The low current is considered one of the biggest hurdles in the development of solid-state batteries. It is the reason why the batteries take a relatively long...

Im Focus: Color effects from transparent 3D-printed nanostructures

New design tool automatically creates nanostructure 3D-print templates for user-given colors
Scientists present work at prestigious SIGGRAPH conference

Most of the objects we see are colored by pigments, but using pigments has disadvantages: such colors can fade, industrial pigments are often toxic, and...

Im Focus: Unraveling the nature of 'whistlers' from space in the lab

A new study sheds light on how ultralow frequency radio waves and plasmas interact

Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles present new research on a curious cosmic phenomenon known as "whistlers" -- very low frequency packets...

Im Focus: New interactive machine learning tool makes car designs more aerodynamic

Scientists develop first tool to use machine learning methods to compute flow around interactively designable 3D objects. Tool will be presented at this year’s prestigious SIGGRAPH conference.

When engineers or designers want to test the aerodynamic properties of the newly designed shape of a car, airplane, or other object, they would normally model...

Im Focus: Robots as 'pump attendants': TU Graz develops robot-controlled rapid charging system for e-vehicles

Researchers from TU Graz and their industry partners have unveiled a world first: the prototype of a robot-controlled, high-speed combined charging system (CCS) for electric vehicles that enables series charging of cars in various parking positions.

Global demand for electric vehicles is forecast to rise sharply: by 2025, the number of new vehicle registrations is expected to reach 25 million per year....

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

LaserForum 2018 deals with 3D production of components

17.08.2018 | Event News

Within reach of the Universe

08.08.2018 | Event News

A journey through the history of microscopy – new exhibition opens at the MDC

27.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

A paper battery powered by bacteria

21.08.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Protein interaction helps Yersinia cause disease

21.08.2018 | Life Sciences

Biosensor allows real-time oxygen monitoring for 'organs-on-a-chip'

21.08.2018 | Medical Engineering

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>