As cancer research continues to progress, the ways in which scientists are able to detect the disease become increasingly more fascinating and outside the box. Recently, the possibility of identifying and measuring microscopic cell activity through glow stick-like probes was seriously brought into question, thanks to a new invention developed by Tel Aviv University.
According to American Friends of Tel Aviv University, the mechanism produces a chemiluminescent probe which is not only water-resistant, but also 3000 times brighter than the average glow stick used at festivals and during blackouts, etc. The probe’s specifications are geared especially towards cancer diagnoses and other medical topics of interest.
The way the new invention works is quite riveting in itself; by altering the electronic structure in current probes, the “inherent fluorescence” within is heightened. This research has the potential of leading to a new single-component system being invented, one with multiple applications such as detecting and measuring the kind of cell activities which point to certain pathologies, including cancer.
TAU School of Chemistry professor Doron Shabbat, leader of the research study, referred to chemiluminescence as “one of the most sensitive methods used in diagnostic testing.” He and his team have, he continues, managed to develop a preparation method for highly efficient compounds which, upon contact with a specific protein or chemical, emit light. These compounds are then able to be used as molecular probes, put to work in detecting cancerous cells and other applications.
The reason that current chemiluminescent probes are somewhat faulty lies with a glitch in their electronic structure, one of energy loss that stems from the transfer process used in the majority of systems. This process works as such; one emitter molecule detects the desired species, while a fluorophore and a surfactant work together to amply the signal to levels at which detection will be much easier. The point during this process where energy loss occurs is between the emitter molecule and fluorophore stages, and given that surfactants are not biocompatible this creates a problem. This flaw has been repaired in the new invention, says Geneva University’s Dr. Christopher Bauer, who collaborated with the study’s researchers.
The glitch was fixed, reveals Shabbat, with the adding of two key atoms which led to a “much brighter probe than those currently on the market.” Another benefit of this molecule, he goes on to say, is that it is suitable for direct cellular use. Sensors based on the molecule were thus created, for the detection of several biologically relevant chemicals. The chemiluminescent molecule was used to measure enzyme activity, and also to microscopically image cells, specifically those found in patients with cancer.
As such, a “new powerful methodology” has arrived on the scientific scene, one which allows for an even greater level of chemiluminescence sensors to be developed, a project instantly in the works following the completion of the TAU invention. Their probe is currently being looked into regarding the potential amplification of its glow, in order to make it usable for in vivo imaging, with in vivo being Latin for “within the living.”
By Lorelai Zelmerlow
Photo Courtesy of Prof. Doron Shabat