New tool to spy on molecules in live cells

The ability to peer at single biological molecules in a living cell is something that has long been a dream of researchers.

Updated: May 22, 2011, 14:37 PM IST

Washington: The ability to peer at single biological molecules in a living cell is something that has long been a dream of researchers.
However, a novel technique, using the structure of diamond, may well be able to do this and potentially provide a tool for diagnosing and developing a treatment for hard-to-cure diseases such as cancer.

Researchers at the Texas A&M University have developed a technique, exploiting a specific defect in the lattice structure of diamond, to externally detect the spins of individual molecules, reports the New Journal of Physics.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) has already taken advantage of a molecule`s spin to give clear snapshots of organs and tissue within the human body.

However, to get a more detailed insight into the workings of the disease, the imaging scale must be brought down to individual bio-molecules and captured whilst the cells are still alive.

Co-lead author Phillip Hemmer, professor of electrical and computer engineering at Texas A&M University, said: "Many conditions, such as cancer and ageing, have their roots at the molecular scale," according to a university statement.

"Therefore, if we could somehow develop a tool that would allow us to do magnetic resonance imaging of individual biomolecules in a living cell then we would have a powerful new tool for diagnosing and eventually developing cures for such stubborn diseases," Hemmer pointed out.

IANS

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