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One-of-a-kind imaging probe reveals secrets useful for drug discovery

is not the extreme power of the magnet, which at 600 megahertz is fairly standard, but the extreme sensitivity of the probe - the component that is inserted into the magnet to obtain chemical information from the samples.

Developed by scientists at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory at UF and in Tallahassee, and a manufacturer of NMR equipment, the probe is only about 2 inches in diameter, and the space for the sample itself is about 1 millimeter in diameter.

When in use, the probe is cooled to lower than 400 degrees Fahrenheit below zero to reduce electrical signals that would interfere with the analysis. But the sample area itself is kept warm to protect the specimen.

"It is now possible to approach problems we couldn't think about before," said Edison, who said he welcomes collaboration with other scientists interested in using the new probe. "For example, in mouse models of Parkinson's or Alzheimer's disease, there is not a lot of tissue to work with, especially if you're studying a sample from a single animal. But this is a way we could obtain potentially important chemical information about disease from small amounts of brain tissue."

Scientists used walking stick venom to demonstrate the technique partly because it combined lead researcher Aaron Dossey's passion for studying insects with his formal training in biochemistry.

"I've raised different species of walking sticks, which are well known to spray defensive venom," Dossey said. "We thought if this technique really can look at small samples, well, a milking of a single walking stick is very small. It's worth a try."

They discovered compounds not previously known to be present in these animals, as well as chemical differences in secretions from the same walking stick at different times. Notably, they found a high concentration of glucose, a simple sugar and vital cellular fuel.

"Glucose is an expensive molecule to spray at your predators," Ed
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Source:University of Florida


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