Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Astronomy Technology Brings Nanoparticle Probes Into Sharper Focus

Date:
February 25, 2008
Source:
Georgia Institute of Technology
Summary:
While pondering the challenges of distinguishing one nano-sized probe image from another in a mass of hundreds or thousands of nanoprobes, researchers made an interesting observation. The tiny, clustered dots of light looked a lot like a starry sky on a clear night. The biomedical researchers realized that astronomers had already made great strides in solving a problem very similar to their own — isolating and analyzing one dot (in this case a star) in a crowded field of light. They hypothesized that a computer system designed for stellar photometry, a branch of astronomy focused on measuring the brightness of stars, could hold the solution to their problem. Researchers have created a technology based on astronomy software that provides more precise images of single molecules tagged with nanoprobes. The clearer images allow researchers to collect more detailed information about a single molecule, such as how the molecule is binding in a gene sequence, taking scientists a few steps closer to truly personalized and predictive medicine as well as more complex biomolecular structural mapping.

Figure a and b: A standard dual-color image of red and green nanoparticles in the presence of a cancer gene sequence. Note that the nanoprobes occasionally overlap in the image to create the appearance of yellow probes. Figure c and d: A dual-color image of red and green nanoparticles in the presence of a cancer gene sequence clarified by new Georgia Tech and Emory technology.
Credit: Image courtesy of Georgia Institute of Technology

While pondering the challenges of distinguishing one nano-sized probe image from another in a mass of hundreds or thousands of nanoprobes, researchers at Georgia Tech and Emory University made an interesting observation. The tiny, clustered dots of light looked a lot like a starry sky on a clear night.

The biomedical researchers realized that astronomers had already made great strides in solving a problem very similar to their own — isolating and analyzing one dot (in this case a star) in a crowded field of light. They hypothesized that a computer system designed for stellar photometry, a branch of astronomy focused on measuring the brightness of stars, could hold the solution to their problem.

Now, Georgia Tech and Emory researchers have created a technology based on stellar photometry software that provides more precise images of single molecules tagged with nanoprobes, particles specially designed to bind with a certain type of cell or molecule and illuminate when the target is found. The clearer images allow researchers to collect more detailed information about a single molecule, such as how the molecule is binding in a gene sequence, taking scientists a few steps closer to truly personalized and predictive medicine as well as more complex biomolecular structural mapping.

In addition to biomedical applications, the system could be used to clarify other types of nanoparticle probes, including tagged particles or molecules.

“As more powerful imaging technologies are developed, scientists face a real challenge to quantitatively analyze and interpret these new mountains of data,” said May Wang, an assistant professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. “This PNAS paper* is only a start, but I expect that innovative computing and data processing will be increasingly used to reveal detailed and quantitative features not currently available to biomedical researchers.”

“This work is pointing to a new era in light microscopy in which single molecule detection is achieved at nanometer resolution,” said Dr. Shuming Nie, a professor of biomedical engineering and chemistry and also the director of the Emory-Georgia Tech Cancer Nanotechnology Center. “This is also an example of interdisciplinary research in which advanced computing meets nanotechnology. I envision major applications not only for single-molecule imaging, but also for ultrasensitive medical diagnostics.”

Because scientists frequently use several different colors of nanoprobes to color code genes and proteins, a blended color dot is a common challenge when analyzing images. For every few green or red dots in an image, there could be a few yellow dots as well, indicating that at least two dots are clustering to create the appearance of a new color.

While less than precise nanoprobe images yield valuable information, the Georgia Tech and Emory research team knew that better technology was needed to pinpoint the exact distance in nanometers between probes to reveal important information about the size and binding geometry of targeted molecules.

“We had no way of knowing for sure if we were looking at one molecule or two or three molecules very near one another,” said Wang. “The fuzzy dot images were not precise enough on the nanometer level to truly tell us how these markers reflect DNA, but this system allows us to collect quantitative data and prove — not hypothesize — how genes are behaving.”

Instead of starting from scratch to create a system to isolate the clumped nanoprobe images, the Georgia Tech and Emory researchers pursued their stellar photometry idea by adapting DAOPHOT, a program written by Peter Stetson at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory designed to handle crowded fields of stars.

After adapting DAOPHOT, the research team used color-coded nanoparticles to beat the traditional diffraction limit by nearly two orders of magnitude, allowing routine super-resolution imaging at one nanometer resolution. And by using DNA molecules, two color-coded nanoparticles are designed to recognize two binding sites on a single target. Then the particles are brought together within nanometer distances after target binding.

These distances are sorted out by highly efficient image processing technology, leading to detection and identification of individual molecules based on the target’s geometric size.

Compared to other single molecule imaging methods, the Georgia Tech and Emory system allows for higher-speed detection involving much larger sample volumes (microliter to milliliters).

*The research was recently detailed in the online Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Collaborators on the project include Amit Agrawal and Geoffrey Wang from the Departments of Biomedical Engineering and Chemistry at Emory and Georgia Tech, and Rajesh Deo from the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Georgia State University.

The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Energy Genomes to Life Program and the Georgia Cancer Coalition. Computer support was also provided by Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Georgia Institute of Technology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Georgia Institute of Technology. "Astronomy Technology Brings Nanoparticle Probes Into Sharper Focus." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 February 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080219132140.htm>.
Georgia Institute of Technology. (2008, February 25). Astronomy Technology Brings Nanoparticle Probes Into Sharper Focus. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080219132140.htm
Georgia Institute of Technology. "Astronomy Technology Brings Nanoparticle Probes Into Sharper Focus." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080219132140.htm (accessed April 17, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Is Apathy A Sign Of A Shrinking Brain?

Is Apathy A Sign Of A Shrinking Brain?

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2014) A recent study links apathetic feelings to a smaller brain. Researchers say the results indicate a need for apathy screening for at-risk seniors. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) A new study conducted by researchers at Northwestern and Harvard suggests even casual marijuana use can alter your brain. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Thousands Of Vials Of SARS Virus Go Missing

Thousands Of Vials Of SARS Virus Go Missing

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) A research institute in Paris somehow misplaced more than 2,000 vials of the deadly SARS virus. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Formerly Conjoined Twins Released From Dallas Hospital

Formerly Conjoined Twins Released From Dallas Hospital

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) Conjoined twins Emmett and Owen Ezell were separated by doctors in August. Now, nearly nine months later, they're being released from the hospital. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins