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Researchers X-ray living cancer cells
Date:2/27/2014

Gttingen-based scientists working at DESY's PETRA III research light source have carried out the first studies of living biological cells using high-energy X-rays. The new method shows clear differences in the internal cellular structure between living and dead, chemically fixed cells that are often analysed. "The new method for the first time enables us to investigate the internal structures of living cells in their natural environment using hard X-rays," emphasises the leader of the working group, Prof. Sarah Kster from the Institute for X-Ray Physics of the University of Gttingen. The researchers present their work in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters.

Thanks to analytical methods with ever-higher resolution, scientists today can study biological cells at the level of individual molecules. The cells are frequently chemically fixed before they are studied with the help of optical, X-ray or electron microscopes. The process of chemical fixation involves immersing the cells in a type of chemical preservative which fixes all of the cell's organelles and even the proteins in place. "Minor changes to the internal structure of the cells are unavoidable in this process," emphasises Kster. "In our studies, we were able to show these changes in direct comparison for the first time."

The team used cancer cells from the adrenal cortex for their analyses. They grew the cells on a silicon nitrite substrate, which is almost transparent to X-rays. In order to keep the cells alive in the experimental chamber during the experiment, they were supplied with nutrients, and their metabolic products were pumped away via fine channels just 0.5 millimetres in diameter. "The biological cells are thus located in a sample environment which very closely resembles their natural environment," explains Dr. Britta Weinhausen from Kster's group, the paper's first author.

The experiments were carried out at the Nanofocus Setup (GINIX) of PET
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Contact: Thomas Zoufal
presse@desy.de
49-408-998-1666
Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron DESY
Source:Eurekalert

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