New technique can control cell movement with light in organisms

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London, May 17 (ANI): Looking for cancer cure, scientists have developed a new technique that uses light to manipulate the activity of a protein at precise times and places within a living cell.

The discovery by researchers at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine could provide a new tool for scientists who study the fundamentals of protein function.

"This finding complements an additional collaboration with Anna Huttenlocher, PhD of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, published earlier this year in the journal Developmental Cell, showing that this technique could be used to control cell movement in live zebrafish as well," said Klaus Hahn, in whose lab the discovery was made, as saying.

A team led by Dr. Denise Montell describes how researchers used the technique, which controls protein behavior in cells and animals simply by shining a focused beam of light on the cells where they want the protein to be active, in live fruit flies.

"We have now shown that this technique works in two different living organisms, providing proof of principle that light can be used to activate a key protein. In this case the protein controls cell movement, enabling us to move cells about in animals. This is particularly valuable in studies where cell movement is the focus of the research, including embryonic development, nerve regeneration and cancer metastasis. Now researchers can control where and where particular proteins are activated in animals, providing a heretofore inaccessible level of control," said Hahn.

The new technology is an advance over previous light-directed methods of cellular control that used toxic wavelengths of light, disrupted the cell membrane or could switch proteins 'on' but not 'off'.

Unlike some approaches it requires no injection of cofactors or other unnatural materials into the animals being studied.

The study has been published in the journal Nature Cell Biology. (ANI)

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