For the first time ever, researchers at the University of Bristol have been able to directly measure energy levels inside living heart cells, in real time, using the chemical that causes fireflies to light up.
Dr Elinor Griffiths said: "Being able to see exactly what's going on in heart cells will be of great benefit to understanding heart disease."
The research is published today (22nd September, 2006) in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.
The 'power stations' within heart cells that make energy are called mitochondria. They convert energy from food into chemical energy called adenosine triphosphate, or ATP.
Under normal conditions, mitochondria are able to make ATP extremely rapidly when the heart is stressed, such as during exercise or in "fight-or-flight" mode.
However, if the cells are made to beat suddenly from rest, a situation that happens when the heart is re-started after cardiac surgery or a heart attack, the team found there is a lag phase where the supply of ATP drops before mitochondrial production starts again, potentially preventing the heart from beating properly.
The researchers made use of a protein called luciferase, which is normally found in the tails of firefly and is what causes them to light up. Using molecular biological techniques, they transferred modified forms of the luciferase DNA into heart cells – the cells could then make their own luciferase, and the modifications enabled the luciferase to be produced inside the mitochondria.
Since luciferase lights up in the presence of ATP, the amount of light, and hence the amount of ATP, could be detected using a microscope and a highly sensitive camera.
Dr Griffiths explained: "The breakthrough presented by this technique could be of benefit in heart diseases where mitochondria cannot make enough ATP. When that happens the heart does not have enough energy to perform its function of pumping blood efficiently which can result in a heart attack."
Exactly how mitochondria tailor the supply of ATP to demand is not fully known. Being able to directly measure ATP levels inside mitochondria of living heart cells in real time will go a long way towards understanding this more fully.
Cherry Lewis | alfa
New flexible, transparent, wearable biopatch, improves cellular observation, drug delivery
12.11.2018 | Purdue University
Exosomes 'swarm' to protect against bacteria inhaled through the nose
12.11.2018 | Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary
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...
On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.
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...
Physicists at ETH Zurich demonstrate how errors that occur during the manipulation of quantum system can be monitored and corrected on the fly
The field of quantum computation has seen tremendous progress in recent years. Bit by bit, quantum devices start to challenge conventional computers, at least...
Scientists developed specially coated nanometer-sized vehicles that can be actively moved through dense tissue like the vitreous of the eye. So far, the transport of nano-vehicles has only been demonstrated in model systems or biological fluids, but not in real tissue. The work was published in the journal Science Advances and constitutes one step further towards nanorobots becoming minimally-invasive tools for precisely delivering medicine to where it is needed.
Researchers of the “Micro, Nano and Molecular Systems” Lab at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart, together with an international...
09.11.2018 | Event News
06.11.2018 | Event News
23.10.2018 | Event News
12.11.2018 | Life Sciences
12.11.2018 | Materials Sciences
12.11.2018 | Physics and Astronomy