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Stanford researchers harness nanoparticles to track cancer-cell changes
Date:4/14/2009

n the world of cell biology, one common way for proteins to get activated is through a process called phosphorylation that slightly changes a protein's shape, in effect turning it on.

Two intracellular proteins, Stat1 and Stat6, play crucial roles in the development of cancer. The Stanford team was able to simultaneously monitor changes in phosphorylation levels of both proteins in lab-cultured myeloid leukemia cells. The changes in Stat1 and Stat6 closely tracked those demonstrated with existing visualization methods, establishing proof of principle for the new approach.

While the new technology so far has been used only to view cells on slides, it could eventually be used in a manner similar to flow cytometry, the current state-of-the-art technology, which lets scientists visualize single cells in motion. In flow cytometry, cells are bombarded with laser light as they pass through a scanning chamber. The cells can then be analyzed and, based on their characteristics, sorted and routed to different destinations within the cytometer.

Still, flow cytometry has its limits. It involves tethering fluorescent dye molecules to antibodies, with different colors tied to antibodies that target different molecules. The dye molecules respond to laser light by fluorescing echoing light at exactly the same wavelength, or color, with which they were stimulated. The fluorescence's strength indicates the abundance of the cell-surface features to which those dyes are now attached. But at some point, the light signals given off by multiple dyes begin to interfere with one another. It is unlikely that the number of distinct features flow cytometry can measure simultaneously will exceed 20 or so.

The new high-tech dye-containing particles used by the Stanford team go a step further. They give off not just single-wavelength fluorescent echoes but also more-complex fingerprints comprising wavelengths slightly different from the single-color beams that
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Contact: Bruce Goldman
goldmanb@stanford.edu
650-725-2106
Stanford University Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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