DNA nanotechnology provides detailed monitoring of single cells

A short segment of single-stranded DNA artificially evolved to bind to a particular protein growth factor has been adapted to make a molecular sensor for that factor. Upon binding the growth factor the DNA changes shape, bringing two fluorescent dye molecules closer together, thus producing an optical signal. After chemical attachment of the sensor to the membranes of an adult stem cell, and transplantation of the stem cell into a mouse where it homes to the bone marrow, the sensor reports on the environment of the cell. From EurekAlert “Researchers provide means of monitoring cellular interactions

Using nanotechnology to engineer sensors onto the surface of cells, researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) have developed a platform technology for monitoring single-cell interactions in real-time. This innovation addresses needs in both science and medicine by providing the ability to further understand complex cell biology, track transplanted cells, and develop effective therapeutics. These findings are published in the July 17 issue of Nature Nanotechnology [abstract].

“We can now monitor how individual cells talk to one another in real-time with unprecedented spatial and temporal resolution,” says Jeffrey Karp, senior study author, and co-director of the Center for Regenerative Therapeutics (ReGen Rx) at BWH. “This allows us to understand signaling between cells and interactions with drugs in great detail that should have broad implications for basic science and drug discovery”. …

“Once this is refined as a tool, and used to study drug interactions with cells on a regular basis, there is potential that it may be used for personalized medicine in the future,” said Weian Zhao, lead author of the study, also of the Center for Regenerative Therapeutics (ReGen Rx) at BWH. Karp adds, “We may one day be able to test a drug’s influence on cell-cell interactions before deciding on the appropriate therapeutic for each person.” …

Perhaps such DNA-based nanosensors will turn out to be the predecessors of armies of nanorobots to monitor a patient’s health and the progress of her therapy.

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