While previous studies have focused on releasing molecules that activate biological events, little has been done in the area of regulating the inhibition of biological processes.
"Ultimately, we want to understand the role local protein synthesis plays in biological systems such as neurons," said Schuman. "When and where in the neuron is protein synthesis used to bring about changes? How does protein synthesis regulate synaptic strength and axonal outgrowth? These are questions we'd like to answer."
Another example of a process the new method can help clarify involves the role of protein synthesis in the development of an organism. Since stem cells in humans, for example, differentiate into skin, brain and muscle cells, among many others, researchers want to know the controlling mechanisms for how these cells are chosen for their specific roles.
"If we had a way to selectively abolish protein synthesis in subcellular compartments and observe the effects, then we could infer the role of local protein synthesis in development," said Dore.
Generally speaking, there are few research tools available that are location-specific, so the new method adds a potentially powerful tool for scientists. Often, manipulations are carried out on all parts of a sample, but researchers have learned that much of biological function is dependent on the specific location of a particular event.
While the new caged compound and its photoreactive properties may never be used for anything as complex as drug delivery, it may well serve a purpose in studying such areas as memory, brain function and even Alzheimer's Disease.
"Our technique will enable scientists to conduct experiments aimed at understanding the mechanisms of learning and memory at the molecular and cellular level," said Dore.
The technique could also be used in drug disco
Source:University of Georgia