Living on Earth’s Diane Toomey reports on a new way to see into the inner world of cells.
CURWOOD: Just ahead, honoring the best in eco-tourism. First, this Note on Emerging Science from Diane Toomey
TOOMEY: When scientists want to view the intricacies of the cellular world, they tag proteins in cells with fluorescent organic dyes. But the field of biological imaging may soon be revolutionized by cutting-edge nanotechnology. Quantum dots are tiny light-emitting crystals made up of semiconductor material that fluoresce when a light shines on them. Unlike dyes, dots can be made to shine in virtually any color, just by altering their size. So dot technology should allow many more objects to be tracked simultaneously. And quantum dots are brighter and can last up to 1,000 times longer than dyes.
Now, two separate research teams at the Rockefeller University have, for the first time, demonstrated that quantum dot technology can be used in living cells. One team injected a billion of these dots into a frog embryo. Embryonic cells are normally opaque, but under the light of quantum dots, their nuclei became visible. Researchers were able to trace the dots as the cells divided into the tadpole stage.
The second group of scientists tricked slime mold cells into gobbling up some quantum dots and were then able to watch these single-celled creatures interact with each other.
That’s this week’s Note on Emerging Science. I’m Diane Toomey.
CURWOOD: And you’re listening to Living on Earth.
[MUSIC: David Hewitt “Streetbeat” A World Instrumental Collection, Putumayo World Music (1996)]
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