Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

The physical forces of cells in action

12.02.2019

Swiss scientists have developed probes designed to reveal the physical forces inside living cells; a world first

The detection of physical forces is one of the most complex challenges facing science. Although Newton's apple has long solved the problem of gravity, imaging the physical forces that act in living cells remains one of the main mysteries of current biology.


Molecular structure of the chemical tool (on the left), blue: electron-poor, red: electron-rich, that changes color like shrimps during cooking (middle, inspiration from the fishmarket in Barcelona) to reveal physical forces inside of living cells (on the right, here endoplasmic reticulum and nuclear envelope).

Credit: © UNIGE

Considered to play a decisive role in many biological processes, the chemical tools to visualize the physical forces in action do not exist. But today, researchers from the University of Geneva (UNIGE) and the National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) in Chemical Biology, Switzerland, have developed probes inspired by lobster cooking, they enable to enter into cells.

For the first time, physical forces can be imaged live inside the cells. These results, a turning point in the study of life sciences, can be found in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Since its creation in 2010, one of the central objectives of the NCCR Chemical Biology has been to solve the problem of detecting cellular physical forces.

"Our approach to creating tension probes was inspired by the color change of shrimp, crabs or lobsters during cooking," says Stefan Matile, Professor in the Department of Organic Chemistry at the Faculty of Science of the UNIGE and member of the NCCR. In live shrimp, the physical forces of the surrounding proteins flatten and polarize the carotenoid pigment, called astaxanthin, until it turns blue.

"During cooking, these proteins are unfolded and the lobster pigment can regain its natural dark orange color," continues the Geneva chemist. Intrigued by these crustaceans, the development of fluorescent probes operating on the same principle of planarization and polarization required about eight years of research.

External force probes have proven their worth

Last year, the NCCR teams finally produced the first fluorescent probe capable of imaging the forces acting on the outer membrane, called the plasma membrane, of living cells. Requests for samples from more than 50 laboratories around the world came in immediate response to the release of these results, demonstrating the importance of this breakthrough for life sciences. To meet this demand, UNIGE's force probes were launched under the Flipper-TR® brand at the end of last year.

What about the internal forces of the cells?

The study of forces that apply outside the cells is not limited to chemical tools for fluorescence imaging. Cellular surfaces are accessible to physical tools like micropipettes, optical clamps, cantilevers of atomic force microscopes, etc. "But these physical tools are obviously not applicable to the study of forces within cells," says Aurélien Roux, a professor in the Department of Biochemistry at the Faculty of Science of the UNIGE and a member of the NCCR.

"Organelles such as mitochondria, responsible for energy production; endoplasmic reticulum, responsible for protein synthesis; endosomes, responsible for trafficking material to and within cells; or the nucleus, which stores genetic information, are simply beyond the reach of physical tools from outside." Until today visualization of the forces that operate and control these organelles inside the cells was still impossible, although essential to understand their function!

This fundamental challenge in the life sciences is now being met. The NCCR team, led by Stefan Matile, Aurélien Roux and Suliana Manley, professor at the EPFL Institute of Physics, also member of the NCCR, succeeded in getting their force probes into the cells and selectively marking the various organelles. They are now able to show, for example, how tension rises in the mitochondria that are beginning to divide.

"For the very first time, physical forces can be imaged live inside the cells," enthuses Aurélien Roux. This new chemistry tool finally allows scientists to achieve what they have wanted to do for a very long time. "These new probes now offer us the opportunity to tackle mechanobiology and revolutionize the study of life sciences," concludes Stefan Matile.

Media Contact

Stefan Matile
Stefan.Matile@unige.ch
41-223-796-523

 @UNIGEnews

http://www.unige.ch 

Stefan Matile | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/jacs.8b13189

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Developing a digital holography-based multimodal imaging system to visualize living cells
02.06.2020 | Kobe University

nachricht Possible physical trace of short-term memory found
02.06.2020 | Institute of Science and Technology Austria

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: New measurement exacerbates old problem

Two prominent X-ray emission lines of highly charged iron have puzzled astrophysicists for decades: their measured and calculated brightness ratios always disagree. This hinders good determinations of plasma temperatures and densities. New, careful high-precision measurements, together with top-level calculations now exclude all hitherto proposed explanations for this discrepancy, and thus deepen the problem.

Hot astrophysical plasmas fill the intergalactic space, and brightly shine in stellar coronae, active galactic nuclei, and supernova remnants. They contain...

Im Focus: Biotechnology: Triggered by light, a novel way to switch on an enzyme

In living cells, enzymes drive biochemical metabolic processes enabling reactions to take place efficiently. It is this very ability which allows them to be used as catalysts in biotechnology, for example to create chemical products such as pharmaceutics. Researchers now identified an enzyme that, when illuminated with blue light, becomes catalytically active and initiates a reaction that was previously unknown in enzymatics. The study was published in "Nature Communications".

Enzymes: they are the central drivers for biochemical metabolic processes in every living cell, enabling reactions to take place efficiently. It is this very...

Im Focus: New double-contrast technique picks up small tumors on MRI

Early detection of tumors is extremely important in treating cancer. A new technique developed by researchers at the University of California, Davis offers a significant advance in using magnetic resonance imaging to pick out even very small tumors from normal tissue. The work is published May 25 in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

researchers at the University of California, Davis offers a significant advance in using magnetic resonance imaging to pick out even very small tumors from...

Im Focus: I-call - When microimplants communicate with each other / Innovation driver digitization - "Smart Health“

Microelectronics as a key technology enables numerous innovations in the field of intelligent medical technology. The Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering IBMT coordinates the BMBF cooperative project "I-call" realizing the first electronic system for ultrasound-based, safe and interference-resistant data transmission between implants in the human body.

When microelectronic systems are used for medical applications, they have to meet high requirements in terms of biocompatibility, reliability, energy...

Im Focus: When predictions of theoretical chemists become reality

Thomas Heine, Professor of Theoretical Chemistry at TU Dresden, together with his team, first predicted a topological 2D polymer in 2019. Only one year later, an international team led by Italian researchers was able to synthesize these materials and experimentally prove their topological properties. For the renowned journal Nature Materials, this was the occasion to invite Thomas Heine to a News and Views article, which was published this week. Under the title "Making 2D Topological Polymers a reality" Prof. Heine describes how his theory became a reality.

Ultrathin materials are extremely interesting as building blocks for next generation nano electronic devices, as it is much easier to make circuits and other...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Dresden Nexus Conference 2020: Same Time, Virtual Format, Registration Opened

19.05.2020 | Event News

Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium AWK'21 will take place on June 10 and 11, 2021

07.04.2020 | Event News

International Coral Reef Symposium in Bremen Postponed by a Year

06.04.2020 | Event News

 
Latest News

Perfect optics through light scattering

02.06.2020 | Power and Electrical Engineering

The digital construction site: A smarter way of building with mobile robots

02.06.2020 | Architecture and Construction

Process behind the organ-specific elimination of chromosomes in plants unveiled

02.06.2020 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>