Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

It’s the Water: Graphene Balloon Yields Unprecedented Images of Hydrated Protein Molecules

06.02.2014
A graphene water balloon may soon open up new vistas for scientists seeking to understand health and disease at the most fundamental level.

Electron microscopes already provide amazingly clear images of samples just a few nanometers across. But if you want a good look at living tissue, look again.


Chanhui Wang

In this image generated by an electron microscope, the white dots are the protein ferritin. The dark circle in the middle is a bubble trapped within the graphene capsule enclosing the sample, proving the existence of a liquid.

“You can’t put liquid in an electron microscope,” says Tolou Shokuhfar, of Michigan Technological University. “So, if you have a hydrated sample—and all living things are hydrated—you have to freeze it, like a blueberry in an ice cube, and cut it into a million thin pieces, so the electrons can pass through. Only then can you image it to see what’s going on.”

After such treatment, the blueberry isn’t what it was, and neither is human tissue. Shokuhfar, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering-engineering mechanics, wondered if there might be a way to make electron microscopes more friendly to biological samples. That way, you might get a much better view of what’s really going on at the sub-cellular level.

So she joined colleagues at the University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC), and together they found a way. “You don’t need to freeze the blueberry, you don’t need to slice it up with a diamond knife,” she said. “You just put it in the electron microscope, and you can get down and see the atoms.”

The trick was to encapsulate the sample so that all the water stayed put while the electrons passed through freely. To do that, the team, including Robert F. Klie, an associate professor of physics and mechanical and industrial engineering at UIC, and UIC graduate student Canhui Wang, turned to graphene.

“Graphene is just a single layer of carbon atoms, and electrons can go through it easily, but water does not,” Klie said. “If you put a drop of water on graphene and top it with graphene, it forms this little balloon of water.” The graphene is strong enough to hold the water inside, even within the vacuum of an electron microscope.

The team tried their technique on a biochemical that plays a major role in human health: ferritin. “It’s a protein that stores and releases iron, which is critical for many body functions, and if ferritin isn’t working right, it may be contributing to lots of diseases, including Alzheimer’s and cancer,” Shokuhfar said.

The team made a microscopic sandwich, with ferritin immersed in water as the filling and graphene as the bread, and sealed the edges. Then, using a scanning transmission electron microscope, they captured a variety of images showing ferritin’s atomic structure. In addition, they used a special type of spectroscopy to identify various atomic and electronic structures within the ferritin. Those images showed that the ferritin was releasing iron and pinpointed its specific form.

If the technique were used to compare ferritin taken from diseased tissue with healthy ferritin, it could provide new insights into illness at the molecular level. Those discoveries could lead to new treatments. “I believe this will allow us to identify disease signatures in ferritin and many other proteins,” Shokuhfar said.

An article on their work, “High-Resolution Electron Microscopy and Spectroscopy of Ferritin in Biocompatible Graphene Liquid Cells and Graphene Sandwiches,” ( http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/adma.201306069/abstract )was published Feb. 4 in Advanced Materials. Qiao Qiao, formerly a graduate student in Klie's UIC lab and now a postdoctoral fellow at Vanderbilt University, is also a coauthor on the study.

The work was funded by Michigan Technological University with additional support from a National Science Foundation grant to UIC, number DMR-0959470. The research was conducted at the University of Illinois-Chicago.

Tolou Shokuhfar, cell 906-370-7657, tshokuhf@mtu.edu
Marcia Goodrich, writer, mlgoodri@mtu.edu, 906-487-2343

Marcia Goodrich | Newswise
Further information:
http://www.mtu.edu

Further reports about: Molecules Protein Water Snake carbon atom electron microscope graphene hydrated

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht A novel synthetic antibody enables conditional “protein knockdown” in vertebrates
20.08.2018 | Technische Universität Dresden

nachricht Climate Impact Research in Hannover: Small Plants against Large Waves
17.08.2018 | Leibniz Universität Hannover

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

Quantum bugs, meet your new swatter

20.08.2018 | Information Technology

A novel synthetic antibody enables conditional “protein knockdown” in vertebrates

20.08.2018 | Life Sciences

Metamolds: Molding a mold

20.08.2018 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>