The team, whose principal investigators include Gregory Frolenkov of the UK Department of Physiology, developed “hopping probe ion conductance microscopy,” in which a nanoscale probe “hops” over the surface of a cell in an action similar to a sewing machine needle. They published their development in this week’s edition of Nature Methods.
The technique permitted the researchers to visualize the surface of a complex living cell at a nanoscale resolution, which was previously possible only in dead cells using electron microscopy.
“Now we can see nanostructures such as individual protein or protein complexes in a living cell and probe their function. Many diseases affect the cell surface.
Therefore, we expect that our technique, together with emerging high-resolution imaging techniques looking inside the cell, will clarify the mechanisms of a number of diseases, the same way as a regular optical microscope revolutionized medicine centuries ago,” Frolenkov said.
The other co-principal investigators on the project are Yuri E. Korchev of the Imperial College London Division of Medicine in London, United Kingdom, and David Klenerman of Cambridge University’s Department of Chemistry in Cambridge, United Kingdom. Also participating in the research was Ruben Stepanyan of the UK Department of Physiology, part of the UK College of Medicine.
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