Yvonne Carts-Powell

Holography for drug discovery

In Science, technology on February 21, 2011 at 9:44 am

detail of holographic tissue dynamics spectroscopy system. Courtesy of Purdue Research Foundation


Most of what we know about the goings-on inside living cells comes from indirect evidence — and sometimes it is very indirect. Dead tissue can be cut out, sliced, stained, and examined under a microscope. Living cells can sometimes be extracted and cultured — and again, examined optically (with less resolution) or chemically via chemical assays or spectroscopy. But actual direct evidence of how organelles inside a living cell react to the presence of a new chemical or new stimulus, when the cell is in place within a living critter? That’s hard to do.

David Nolte’s group at Purdue University has a technique that lets researchers see the mechanical effects a drug has on a cell. The method isn’t direct imaging — it’s more like gathering a voiceprint than a photo. They use digital holography of cells as deep as a millimeter below the surface (which doesn’t sound like a lot, but it really is, when you’re talking about looking at cells only a few micrometers long). Speckle fluctuation spectroscopy then describes motion in different parts of the cell.

Check out my news story about Imaging Drug Effects on Tumors at Optics & Photonics News!

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