Biologists and doctors rely heavily on incubators and microscopes. Researchers have invented a new type of microscope that combines the functions of both these tools in a compact system. The incubator microscope is ideally suited for time-lapse examination over a number of weeks and for automatic observation of cell cultures. No bigger than a soda can, it costs 30 times less than buying an incubator and a microscope separately.
A new “lab-on-a-chip” platform developed at the Institute of Photonic Sciences in Spain is capable of detecting detect very low concentrations of protein cancer markers, enabling diagnoses of the disease in its earliest stages. The device, just a few square centimeters in size, uses recent advances in plasmonics, nano-fabrication, microfluids and surface chemistry.
A U.S. and Korean research team has developed a chip-like device that could be scaled up to sort and store hundreds of thousands of individual living cells in a matter of minutes. The system is similar to a random access memory chip, but it moves cells rather than electrons.
A popular technique for studying single molecules is optical trapping. This is a traditionally delicate process, requiring special equipment, a soundproof room and patience as data collected one molecule at a time. Physicists have now shrunk the technology of an optical trap onto a single chip. Instead of just one molecule at a time, the new device can potentially trap hundreds of molecules at once, reducing month-long experiments to days.
Researchers in the U.K. have applied “soft-touch” atomic force microscopy to large, irregularly arranged and individual DNA molecules. In this form of microscopy, a miniature probe is used to feel the surface of the molecules one by one, rather than seeing them. In this way they have determined the structure of DNA from measurements on a single molecule, and found that the structure is more irregular than previously thought.
This month's issue of R&D Magazine focuses on laboratory instrumentation, with our cover story on laboratory utilities for R&D facilities. Our editors also take a look at new spectrometer introductions, simulation software, particle analysis in drug delivery, 3-D printing technology, OEM optics for spectrometers and chromatography systems.
Using nanodot technology, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory researchers have demonstrated the first size-based form of chromatography that can be used to study the membranes of living cells. This unique physical approach to probing cellular membrane structures can reveal information critical to whether a cell lives or dies, remains normal or turns cancerous, that can’t be obtained through conventional microscopy.
Scientists have solved a decades-old medical mystery, and in the process have found a potentially less toxic way to fight invasive fungal infections, which kill about 1.5 million people a year. The researchers say they now understand the mechanism of action of amphotericin, an antifungal drug that has been in use for more than 50 years even though it is nearly as toxic to human cells as it is to the microbes it attacks.
Spectroscopy is an analytical technique used to identify and determine the physical characteristics of materials through the measurement of emissions and absorption of electromagnetic spectra. A staple in any research laboratory, the technique makes its main home in pharmaceutical, biotechnology and chemical laboratories.
Driven by rapid growth in forensics, biotechnology, disease diagnostics and environmental regulations, chromatography systems have become a laboratory staple. Used for the separation of complex mixtures, detection of illicit drugs and the production of pharmaceuticals, the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries are the prime users of chromatography techniques.
The unique properties of engineered nanoparticles have created intense interest in their environmental behavior. Due to the increased use of nanotechnology in consumer products, industrial applications and health care technology, nanoparticles are more likely to enter the environment. For this reason, it’s not only important to know the type, size and distribution of nanoparticles, but it’s also crucial to understand their impact.
It is well known that inorganic carbon in the form of carbon dioxide, CO2, is reduced in a light driven process known as photosynthesis to organic compounds in the chloroplasts. Less well known is that inorganic carbon also affects the rate of the photosynthetic electron transport. Researchers in Sweden have recently found that its ionic form bicarbonate, has a regulating function in the splitting of water in photosynthesis.
When life on Earth was first getting started, simple molecules bonded together into the precursors of modern genetic material. A catalyst would’ve been needed, but enzymes had not yet evolved. One theory is that the catalytic minerals on a meteorite’s surface could have jump-started life’s first chemical reactions. But scientists need a way to directly analyze these rough, irregularly shaped surfaces.
The popular TV series “CSI” is fiction, but everyday, real-life investigators and forensic scientists collect and analyze evidence to determine what happened at crime scenes. In a recent study, scientists say they have developed a more rapid and accurate method based on infrared spectroscopy that could allow crime scene investigators to tell what kind of ammunition was shot from a gun based on the residue it left behind.
In order to track the movements of biological particles in a cell, scientists at Heidelberg Univ. and the German Cancer Research Center have developed a powerful analysis method for live cell microscopy images. This so-called probabilistic particle tracking method is automatic, computer-based and can be used for time-resolved 2-D and 3-D microscopy image data.
Nanotechnology is advancing tools likened to Star Trek's "tricorder" that perform on-the-spot chemical analysis for a range of applications including medical testing, explosives detection and food safety. Researchers found that when paper used to collect a sample was coated with carbon nanotubes, the voltage required was 1,000 times reduced, the signal was sharpened and the equipment was able to capture far more delicate molecules.
A new microfluidic method for evaluating drugs commonly used for preventing heart attacks has found that while aspirin can prevent dangerous blood clots in some at-risk patients, it may not be effective in all patients with narrowed arteries. The study, a first in the examination of heart attack prevention drugs, used a device that simulated blood flowing through narrowed coronary arteries to assess effects of anti-clotting drugs.
Geneticists at the Univ. of California, Davis have decoded the genome sequence for the loblolly pine. The accomplishment is a milestone for genetics because this pine’s genome is massive. Bloated with repetitive sequences, it is seven times larger than the human genome and easily big enough to overwhelm standard genome assembly methods.
A new app developed by researchers the U.K. accurately measures color-based, or colorimetric, tests for use in home, clinical or remote settings, and enables the transmission of medical data from patients directly to health professionals. Called Colorimetrix, the app helps transform any smartphone into a portable medical diagnostic device.
Biophysicists at Rice Univ. have used a miniscule machine, a protease called an FtsH-AAA hexameric peptidase, as a model to test calculations that combine genetic and structural data. Their goal is to solve one of the most compelling mysteries in biology: how proteins perform the regulatory mechanisms in cells upon which life depends.
If you’ve ever suffered the misery of food poisoning from a bacterium like Salmonella, then your cells have been on the receiving end of “nanoinjectors”, microscopic spikes made from proteins through which pathogens secrete effector proteins into human host cells, causing infection. Researchers are using advanced nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometry to unlock the structure of these injector, which are built from 20 different proteins.
Particle counters are used in a wide variety of industries. Researchers in North Carolina have developed a new thermal technique that counts and measures the size of particles, but is less expensive than light-based techniques. It can also be used on a wider array of materials than electricity-based techniques.
Incomplete or infrequent water quality data can give an inaccurate picture of what’s happening in water resources. Using UV-Vis spectrometers that can rapidly collect data, researchers have developed a new technique o allow researchers and natural resource managers to collect significantly more information on water quality to better inform policy decisions.
A pathway to more effective and efficient synthesis of pharmaceutical drugs and other flow reactor chemical products has been opened by a study in which, for the first time, the catalytic reactivity inside a microreactor was mapped in high resolution from start-to-finish. The results not only provided a better understanding of the chemistry behind the catalytic reactions, they also revealed opportunities for optimization.
The time and cost of sequencing an entire human genome has plummeted, but analyzing three billion base pairs from a single genome can take many months. However, a Univ. of Chicago-based team working with Beagle, one of the world's fastest supercomputers devoted to life sciences, reports that genome analysis can be radically accelerated. The Argonne National Laboratory computer is able to analyze 240 full genomes in about two days.