HOUSTON, Sept. 24, 2007 -- Rice University scientists have captured the first optical images of carbon nanotubes inside a living organism. Using fruit flies, the researchers confirmed that a technique developed at Rice -- near-infrared fluorescent imaging -- was capable of detecting DNA-sized nanotubes inside living fruit flies.
"Carbon nanotubes are much smaller than living cells, and they give off fluorescent light in a way that researchers hope to harness to detect diseases earlier than currently possible," said research co-author Bruce Weisman, professor of chemistry. "In order to do that, we need to learn how to detect and monitor nanotubes inside living tissues, and we must also determine whether they pose any hazards to organisms."
Researchers have studied how carbon nanotubes interact with tissues of rabbits, mice and other animals, but Weisman and co-author Kathleen Beckingham, professor of biochemistry and cell biology, chose something smaller -- the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster -- to attempt the first-ever detection of nanotubes inside a living animal.
"Drosophila is one of biology's preeminent model organisms," said Beckingham. "We have a wealth of knowledge about the genetic and biochemical workings of fruit flies, and this presents us with unique opportunities to explore the effects and fate of single-walled carbon nanotubes in a living organism."
Weisman and Beckingham's research, which is available online, appeared in the September issue of Nano Letters, the American Chemical Society's journal..
In the study, fruit fly larvae were raised on a yeast paste that contained carbon nanotubes. The flies were fed this food from the time they hatched throughout their initial feeding phase of 4-5 days. Fruit flies are ravenous eaters during this period and gain weight continuously until they are about 200 times heavier than hatchlings. Then they become pupae. As pupae, they do not eat or grow. They mature
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