Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors





Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button


android tablet pc

Home > Press > New microscopy technique reveals mechanics of blood cell membranes

Abstract:
Thanks to an interdisciplinary team of researchers, scientists now have a more complete understanding of one of the human body's most vital structures: the red blood cell.

New microscopy technique reveals mechanics of blood cell membranes

Champaign, IL | Posted on April 30th, 2010

Led by University of Illinois electrical and computer engineering professor Gabriel Popescu, the team developed a model that could lead to breakthroughs in screening and treatment of blood-cell-morphology diseases, such as malaria and sickle-cell disease. The group published its findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Red blood cells (RBCs) are unique in structure - a doughnut-shaped disc full of the oxygen-carrying molecule hemoglobin but none of the intracellular structures of other cells, not even DNA. In circulation, RBCs must contort to squeeze through capillaries half their diameter. Their flexibility and resilience come from their membrane structure, which couples a typical lipid bilayer with an underlying matrix of protein. However, knowledge of the membrane's mechanics is very limited.

"The deformability of red blood cells is their most important property," said Popescu, also affiliated with the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at U. of I. "What we wanted to find is, how does deformability relate to morphology?"

The research team used a novel measurement technique called diffraction phase microscopy, which uses two beams of light while other microscopes only use one.

"One beam goes through the specimen and one beam is used as a reference," Popescu said. "It is very, very sensitive to minute displacements in the membrane, down to the nanoscale."

RBC membrane movement can be observed through typical light microscopes, a phenomenon known as "flickering," but Popescu's team was able not only to see nanoscale membrane fluctuations in live cells, but also to measure them quantitatively - a first.

In addition to normal cells, the team also measured two other morphologies: bumpy RBCs called echinocytes and round ones called spherocytes. They discovered that these deformed cells display less flexibility in their membranes, a finding that could provide insight into mechanics and treatment of diseases that affect RBC shape, such as malaria, sickle-cell disease and spherocytosis.

With collaborators from UCLA, the group used its data to construct a new model of the RBC membrane that accounts for fluctuations and curvature, a more complete and accurate rendering than previous models that treated the membrane as a flat sheet.

"Our measurements showed that a flat model could not explain the data. With this curvature model, we understand much better what is happening in the RBC," said Popescu, adding, "It's really a combination of a new optical method and new theoretical model, and that is what allowed us to find some new results where the shape and deformability are coupled."

The team's technique eventually could be used to screen for blood diseases such as malaria or to screen banked blood for membrane flexibility before transfusion, since stored blood often undergoes cellular shape changes.

In addition, this novel microscopy technique has important implications for researchers interested in membrane biology and dynamics, according to Catherine Best, co-author of the paper and instructor in the U. of I. College of Medicine. "An advantage to studying red blood cells in this way is that we can now look at the effects of chemical agents on membranes, specifically. It is very exciting. For instance, we can look at the membrane effects of alcohol, and we may learn something about tolerance to alcohol," Best said.

Because diffraction phase microscopy measures live cells without physically manipulating or damaging them, it also could be used to evaluate medications being developed to treat blood cell morphology diseases, according to Popescu. "We can study the mechanics of a single cell under different pharmacological conditions, and I think that would be ideal for testing drugs," he said.

The National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation funded this research, which included collaborators from MIT, Harvard Medical School, the University of Colorado, Harvard University and UCLA.

####

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Liz Ahlberg
Physical Sciences Editor
217-244-1073


Gabriel Popescu

Copyright © University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related News Press

News and information

MRI, on a molecular scale: Researchers develop system that could one day peer into the atomic structure of individual molecules April 20th, 2014

Iranian Researchers Present New Model to Strengthen Superconductivity at Higher Temperatures April 19th, 2014

Iranian Researchers Produce New Anti-Cancer Drug from Turmeric April 19th, 2014

Innovative strategy to facilitate organ repair April 18th, 2014

Possible Futures

Virus structure inspires novel understanding of onion-like carbon nanoparticles April 10th, 2014

Local girl does good March 22nd, 2014

Surface Characteristics Influence Cellular Growth on Semiconductor Material March 12th, 2014

The "Tipping Point" February 12th, 2014

Nanomedicine

Iranian Researchers Present New Model to Strengthen Superconductivity at Higher Temperatures April 19th, 2014

Iranian Researchers Produce New Anti-Cancer Drug from Turmeric April 19th, 2014

Innovative strategy to facilitate organ repair April 18th, 2014

High-temperature plasmonics eyed for solar, computer innovation April 17th, 2014

Announcements

MRI, on a molecular scale: Researchers develop system that could one day peer into the atomic structure of individual molecules April 20th, 2014

Iranian Researchers Present New Model to Strengthen Superconductivity at Higher Temperatures April 19th, 2014

Iranian Researchers Produce New Anti-Cancer Drug from Turmeric April 19th, 2014

Innovative strategy to facilitate organ repair April 18th, 2014

Tools

MRI, on a molecular scale: Researchers develop system that could one day peer into the atomic structure of individual molecules April 20th, 2014

Oxford Instruments Asylum Research Introduces the MFP-3D InfinityTM AFM Featuring Powerful New Capabilities and Stunning High Performance April 18th, 2014

More effective kidney stone treatment, from the macroscopic to the nanoscale April 17th, 2014

Aerotech X-Y ball-screw stage for economical high performance Planar positioning April 16th, 2014

Nanobiotechnology

Targeting cancer with a triple threat: MIT chemists design nanoparticles that can deliver three cancer drugs at a time April 15th, 2014

Biologists Develop Nanosensors to Visualize Movements and Distribution of Plant Stress Hormone April 15th, 2014

In latest generation of tiny biosensors, size isn't everything: UCLA researchers overturn conventional wisdom on nanowire-based diagnostic devices April 11th, 2014

Virus structure inspires novel understanding of onion-like carbon nanoparticles April 10th, 2014

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE







  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoTech-Transfer
University Technology Transfer & Patents
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More














ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project







© Copyright 1999-2014 7th Wave, Inc. All Rights Reserved PRIVACY POLICY :: CONTACT US :: STATS :: SITE MAP :: ADVERTISE