A chance discovery by a team of scientists using optical probes means that changes in cells in the human body could now be seen in a completely different light.
Prof David Parker from Durham University's Chemistry Department was working with experts from Glasgow University, and a team of international researchers, when they discovered dramatic changes in the way that light was emitted by optical probes during a series of experiments.
Light has energy and carries information and the researchers used the optical probes to measure the behaviour of light and its interaction with proteins abundant in human blood. The fortuitous discovery has led to the creation of a new type of probe for examining protein interactions that could be used for cellular imaging.
By tracking the way in which proteins bind, the experiments will aid understanding of the function of the most abundant protein in the body, serum albumin. In the future the technique could help to understand how drugs used in medicine interact with the major protein found in blood.
Prof Parker says: "It's a new step in the development of optical probes in chemistry and in observing the interaction between medical drugs and proteins."
The Durham University-led team looked at how light behaved when serum albumin was added to the probes and found that the emitted polarised light had interesting characteristics.
Chirality, or handedness, is a key concept in Nature. In molecular chemistry, it refers to the concept of a molecule having two mirror images that cannot be superimposed onto each other; these are called enantiomers and pairs of these can be designated as 'right-' and 'left-handed.'
Light can be thought of as being made up of two left and right handed components and this property can be measured. The research team used optical probes with hi-spatial resolution and precision to track protein interactions and to see how the light rotates and in
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