Scientists Develop New Imaging Technology to Visualize What Cells Eat


This new imaging technology is expected to aid in diagnosis and treatment of diseases such as cancer.

This technology was developed by researchers at the University of Edinburgh. Chemical probes that light up when they attach to specific molecules that cells eat such as glucose were designed by the research team. Microscopes were used by researchers to watch cells eating glucose inside live zebrafish embryos, which are transparent and easy to observe. Moreover, the technique was found effective in human cells that were being grown in the lab.

According to the researchers, this new technology could be used to look at other molecules that are important for health and disease. Cells rely on glucose and other molecules for their survival. A change in eating habits of a cell might be warning sign of a disease. According to the researchers, tiny changes in cells’ eating habits inside the body’s tissues can be detected using this technology, thereby making diagnosis of diseases at an early stage easier. It can also be used by doctors for monitoring response of patients to treatments, by tracking the molecules that are eaten by healthy and diseased cells.

Dr. Marc Vendrell, senior lecturer in biomedical imaging at the University of Edinburgh, said, “We have very few methods to measure what cells eat to produce energy, which is what we know as cell metabolism. Our technology allows us to detect multiple metabolites simultaneously and in live cells, by simply using microscopes. This is a very important advance to understand the metabolism of diseased cells and we hope it will help develop better therapies.”


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Cynthia Carrier is a graduate of Texas A&M, where she played volleyball and annoyed a lot of professors. Now as Plains Gazette's entertainment and Lifestyle Editor, she enjoys writing about delicious BBQ, outrageous style trends and all things Texas.