Navigation Links
A new study of living cells could revolutionize the way we test drugs

Researchers have made a breakthrough by detecting the electrical equivalent of a living cell’s last gasp. The work takes them a step closer to both seeing the ‘heartbeat?of a living cell and a new way to test drugs.

To stay alive, individual biological cells must transfer electrically charged particles, called ions across their cell membranes. This flow produces an electrical current that could, in principle, be detected with sensitive enough equipment. The recognition of such electrical activity would provide a kind of ‘cellular cardiogram? allowing the daily functioning of the cell to be monitored in a similar way to a cardiograph showing the workings of a human heart.

With funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), Professor Andre Geim at the University of Manchester and his team have set out to make the first measurement of a cellular ‘heartbeat?

"Once we know the average or usual pattern of electrical activity in a cell, we can see how different drugs affect it," says Professor Geim. This would put an early safeguard into the system that could be applied long before the drug was tested on animals or even humans. In addition, the electrical activity test could be used to monitor the effects of pollution on naturally occurring micro-organisms in the environment.

To detect a cell’s normal activity, Andre Geim and fellow researchers modified apparatus used originally to detect weak magnetic fields in superconductors*. Unfortunately, these modifications reduced the sensitivity of the technique, and the normal activity of the yeast cell could not be detected. This is the first time such a technique has been used on a living cell.

Not to be defeated, the researchers went about livening things up. They chose to invoke what any self-respecting party-goer would: alcohol. "We added ethanol ?which is essentially vodka ?to provoke a response from the cell. Ethanol is known to increase the tra nsparency of cellular membranes which we hoped would give a signal we could detect," says Dr Irina Barbolina, who carried out the experiments.

It worked. As soon as the yeast got a taste of the vodka, the probe registered an electrical signal. A drunken hiccup perhaps? "It was probably the last gasp of the dying cell," says Professor Geim. The researchers had added so much ethanol that it poisoned the cell.

Although not the cardiogram they had hoped for, the electrical signal was the smallest yet detected from a living cell, around 100 times smaller than anything previously detected. It added up to an electrical current of just 10 moving electrons. It has given the team confidence that equipment sensitive enough to measure a cell’s heartbeat can be developed.

"We already have some ideas about how to improve the sensitivity of the detector in water and next time we will also use a more active micro-organism such as an amoeba. Yeast is a subdued organism and doesn’t generate much activity," says Professor Geim. "Probably, the most important outcome is that we defined an important goal. Cellular cardiograms can no longer be seen as absurd or science-fictional. If not us then someone else will soon develop a technique sensitive enough for such studies."
'"/>

Source:Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council


Related biology news :

1. Bioartificial kidney under study at MCG
2. W.M. Keck Foundation funds study of friendly microbes
3. Yellowstone microbes fueled by hydrogen, according to U. of Colorado study
4. Genome-wide mouse study yields link to human leukemia
5. Clam embryo study shows pollutant mixture adversely affects nerve cell development
6. New imaging method gives early indication if brain cancer therapy is effective, U-M study shows
7. Same mutation aided evolution in many fish species, Stanford study finds
8. Sequencing of marine bacterium will help study of cell communication
9. Genetically modified rice in China benefits farmers health, study finds
10. A new study examines how shared pathogens affect host populations
11. NYU study reveals how brains immune system fights viral encephalitis

Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:


(Date:4/13/2016)... 13, 2016  IMPOWER physicians supporting Medicaid patients in ... new clinical standard in telehealth thanks to a new ... higi platform, IMPOWER patients can routinely track key health ... mass index, and, when they opt in, share them ... to a local retail location at no cost. By ...
(Date:3/29/2016)... , March 29, 2016 ... "Company") LegacyXChange "LEGX" and SelectaDNA/CSI Protect are pleased to ... ink used in a variety of writing instruments, ensuring ... of originally created collectibles from athletes on LegacyXChange will ... analysis of the DNA. Bill Bollander ...
(Date:3/22/2016)... Ontario , PROVO and ... Newborn Screening Ontario (NSO), which operates the ... for molecular testing, and Tute Genomics and UNIConnect, ... management technology respectively, today announced the launch of a ... next-generation sequencing (NGS) testing panel. NSO ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... 2016 , ... STACS DNA Inc., the sample tracking software company, today announced ... has joined STACS DNA as a Field Application Specialist. , “I am thrilled ... COO of STACS DNA. “In further expanding our capacity as a scientific integrator, Hays ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... BEACH, Calif. , June 23, 2016  Blueprint ... new biological discoveries to the medical community, has closed ... co-founder Matthew Nunez . "We have ... us with the capital we need to meet our ... will essentially provide us the runway to complete validation ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... 23, 2016 , ... ClinCapture, the only free validated electronic ... showcase its product’s latest features from June 26 to June 30, 2016 for ... Disrupting Clinical Trials in The Cloud during the conference. DIA (Drug Information ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... SAN FRANCISCO , June 22, 2016  Amgen ... platinum sponsorship of the QB3@953 life sciences ... improve human health. The shared laboratory space at QB3@953 ... startups overcome a key obstacle for many early stage ... As part of the sponsorship, Amgen launched two "Amgen ...
Breaking Biology Technology: