Metal elements and molecules interact in the body but visualizing them together has always been a challenge. Researchers from the RIKEN Center for Life Science Technologies have developed a new molecular imaging technology that enables them to visualize biometals and biomolecules simultaneously in a live mouse. This new technology will enable researchers to study the complex interactions between metal elements and molecules in living organisms.
Metal elements such as zinc, iron, and copper are present in trace amounts in the body and play an important role in myriad biological processes including gene expression, signal transduction, and metabolic reactions. Abnormalities in the behavior of these elements often reflect abnormalities in associated biomolecules and studying them together can offer great insight into many biological processes.
Biomolecules can be visualized in living organisms using positron emission tomography (PET), a widely used nuclear medical molecular-imaging technique.
Shuichi Enomoto, Shinji Motomura, and colleagues, from the RIKEN Center for Life Science Technologies have developed a gamma-ray imaging camera enabling them to detect the gamma-rays emitted by multiple biometal elements in the body and study their behavior.
Their second prototype of the system, called GREI–II and presented in the Journal of Analytical Atomic Spectrometry, enables them to visualize multiple biometal elements more than 10 times faster than before, and to do so simultaneously with PET.
In the study, the researchers were able to visualize two radioactive agents injected in a tumor-bearing mouse, as well as an antitumor antibody labeled with a PET molecular probe agent, simultaneously in the live mouse.
This new technology is expected to offer new insights into the relationships between biometal elements and associated biomolecules, and the roles they play in diseases such as diabetes and cancer.