A New Window into Cells
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cellsAh man… my back has been killing me…That’s nothing. my shoulder is radiating pain… and my knees… (silence) oh boy, we sound like a couple of old guys. Ha! Cuz we are, Dave! The other day a friend and I were comparing our MRI experiences and it got me thinking about an amazing new development in this technology

MRI is short for magnetic resonance imaging and can allow us to see soft tissues such as organs and cancerous tumors. Scientists have wondered if they could use it to study how molecules interact inside cells in real time. It can.

One technique is called the magnetic resonance spectroscopy. It can detect cellular structures down to ten micrometers. That’s the size of one of our red blood cells. Scientists have used it to study structures inside tissues and cells but they still couldn’t observe the molecules in them.

That’s about to change with the magnetic resonance microscope! Its sensor is composed of nitrogen atoms dispersed on a diamond film. These nitrogen atoms give off a fluorescent color when placed in a strong magnetic field. The colors they produce is what allow scientists to know which atoms are nearby because each constellation of atoms is unique. That means they can use the emitted fluorescence to identify the precise biochemical molecules that are interacting. They tell which biomolecules are binding, how they’re changing from these interactions, and other aspects of cell metabolism.

It’s incredible to be able to watch biochemical reactions in a living cell as it happens. The long term impact is significant, one day allowing us incredible new ways to understand disease.

For more information…

First Magnetic Resonance Microscope Has Human Biochemistry in Its Sights
With a sensor made from diamond, the new microscope can study biochemical processes in unprecedented detail...