Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Molecular scientists develop color-changing stress sensor

Date:
August 19, 2011
Source:
University of Pennsylvania
Summary:
It is helpful -- even life-saving -- to have a warning sign before a structural system fails, but, when the system is only a few nanometers in size, having a sign that's easy to read is a challenge. Now, thanks to a clever bit of molecular design by bioengineers and chemists, such warning can come in the form of a simple color change.

This is an enhanced image of a polymersome changing color under stress.
Credit: Neha Kamat, University of Pennsylvania

It is helpful -- even life-saving -- to have a warning sign before a structural system fails, but, when the system is only a few nanometers in size, having a sign that's easy to read is a challenge. Now, thanks to a clever bit of molecular design by University of Pennsylvania and Duke University bioengineers and chemists, such warning can come in the form of a simple color change.

The study was conducted by professor Daniel Hammer and graduate students Neha Kamat and Laurel Moses of the Department of Bioengineering in Penn's School of Engineering and Applied Science. They collaborated with associate professor Ivan Dmochowski and graduate student Zhengzheng Liao of the Department of Chemistry in Penn's School of Arts and Sciences, as well as professor Michael Therien and graduate student Jeff Rawson of Duke.

Their work was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The researchers' work involves two molecules: porphyrins, a class of naturally occurring pigments, and polymersomes, artificially engineered capsules that can carry a molecular payload in their hollow interiors. In this case, Kamat and Liao hypothesized that polymersomes could be used as stress sensors if their membranes were embedded with a certain type of light-emitting porphyrins.

The Penn researchers collaborated with the Therien lab, where the porphyrins were originally developed, to design polymersomes that were studded with the light-emitting molecules. When light is shined on these labeled polymersomes, the porphyrins absorb the light and then release it at a specific wavelength, or color. The Therien lab's porphyrins play a critical role in using the polymersomes as stress sensors, because their configuration and concentration controls the release of light.

"When you package these porphyrins in a confined environment, such as a polymersome membrane, you can modulate the light emission from the molecules," Hammer said. "If you put a stress on the confined environment, you change the porphyrin's configuration, and, because their optical release is tied to their configuration, you can use the optical release as a direct measure of the stress in the environment."

For example, the labeled polymersomes could be injected into the blood stream and serve as a proxy for neighboring red blood cells. As both the cells and polymersomes travel through an arterial blockage, for example, scientists would be able to better understand what happens to the blood cell membranes by making inferences from the stress label measurements.

The researchers calibrated the polymersomes by subjecting them to several kinds of controlled stresses -- tension and heat, among others -- and measuring their color changes. The changes are gradations of the near infrared spectrum, so measurements must be made by computers, rather than the naked eye. Rapidly advancing body-scanning technology, which uses light rather than magnetism or radiation, is well suited to this approach.

Other advances in medicine could benefit, as well. As cutting-edge pharmaceutical approaches already use similar molecular technology, the researchers' porphyrin labeling system could be integrated into medicine-carrying polymersomes.

"These kinds of tools could be used to monitor drug delivery, for example," Kamat said. "If we have a way to see how stressed the container is over time, we know how much of the drug has come out."

And, though the researchers chose the engineered polymersomes due to the wide range of stress they can endure, the same stress-labeling technique could soon be applied directly to naturally occurring tissues.

"One future application for this is to use dyes like these porphyrins but include them directly in a cellular membranes," Kamat said. "No one has taken a look at the intrinsic stress inside a membrane so these molecules would be perfect for the job."

The work was supported by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and its Materials Research Science and Engineering Center program and the National Center for Research Resources.

Kamat is an NSF Graduate Fellow.


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. N. P. Kamat, Z. Liao, L. E. Moses, J. Rawson, M. J. Therien, I. J. Dmochowski, D. A. Hammer. Sensing membrane stress with near IR-emissive porphyrins. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2011; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1102125108

Cite This Page:

University of Pennsylvania. "Molecular scientists develop color-changing stress sensor." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 August 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110818190655.htm>.
University of Pennsylvania. (2011, August 19). Molecular scientists develop color-changing stress sensor. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110818190655.htm
University of Pennsylvania. "Molecular scientists develop color-changing stress sensor." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110818190655.htm (accessed April 18, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Friday, April 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Small Reactors Could Be Future of Nuclear Energy

Small Reactors Could Be Future of Nuclear Energy

AP (Apr. 17, 2014) After the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the industry fell under intense scrutiny. Now, small underground nuclear power plants are being considered as the possible future of the nuclear energy. (April 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Honda's New ASIMO Robot, More Human-Like Than Ever

Honda's New ASIMO Robot, More Human-Like Than Ever

AFP (Apr. 17, 2014) It walks and runs, even up and down stairs. It can open a bottle and serve a drink, and politely tries to shake hands with a stranger. Meet the latest ASIMO, Honda's humanoid robot. Duration: 00:54 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
German Researchers Crack Samsung's Fingerprint Scanner

German Researchers Crack Samsung's Fingerprint Scanner

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) German researchers have used a fake fingerprint made from glue to bypass the fingerprint security system on Samsung's new Galaxy S5 smartphone. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Porsche CEO Says Supercar Is Not Dead: Cue the Spyder 918

Porsche CEO Says Supercar Is Not Dead: Cue the Spyder 918

TheStreet (Apr. 16, 2014) The Porsche Spyder 918 proves that, in an automotive world obsessed with fuel efficiency, the supercar is not dead. Porsche North America CEO Detlev von Platen attributes the brand's consistent sales growth -- 21% in 2013 -- with an investment in new technology and expanded performance dynamics. The hybrid Spyder 918 has 887 horsepower and 944 lb-ft of torque, but it can run 18 miles on just an electric charge. The $845,000 vehicle is not a consumer-targeted vehicle but a brand statement. Video provided by TheStreet
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