The complex and mysterious mechanisms that drive communication and reactions within human cells could be on the verge of being unravelled, due to a pioneering new technique.
Researchers from the Universities of Leeds, Exeter and Cambridge have harnessed an innovative new method to gain a greater understanding of signalling stations within the cells, called nanodomains.
They believe the new technique could pave the way for a greater understanding behind the causes of potentially life-threatening conditions such as heart disease, as well as potential new treatment pathways.
The nanodomains are known to drive fundamental physiological processes in the body, including the onset of disease.
Scientists have, until now, generally relied on electron-microscopy to study these structures. However the technology has not allowed access to the finer mechanisms of the nanodomains at a molecular level.
Now, the UK research team have refined a new, light based super-resolution microscopy technique that allows high-quality imaging of the signalling stations in the human heart.
“At present, none of the treatments or therapies provided to heart failure patients specifically target the signalling stations – nanodomains – within the cell, which the evidence overwhelmingly suggests are a major cause of heart failure.
“We believe that by visualising these signalling structures at this level of detail using super-resolution microscopy we can help guide investigations into how we can target or repair these molecular machines and thus, in the long term, help patients to overcome heart disease.”
Expertise in the design of synthetic DNA strands was provided by Dr Lorenzo Di Michele from the University of Cambridge.
The ground-breaking new technique allows scientists to pin-point any number of specific types of proteins within the cells, the counting of each species of protein, and observations of the precise patterns in which they are arranged.
Professor Christian Soeller, who led the study and is at the new Living Systems Institute at the University of Exeter, said: “Slightly more than a decade ago nobody thought that we would ever see individual molecules with light, the resolution just seemed insufficient to resolve such fine detail.”
“Since then an astonishing array of new tricks has been devised. In our latest advance, the use of synthetic DNA has been critical – the deep understanding of the chemistry of DNA we have today makes it an enormously versatile tool.”
As a result, the team says that their research provides a “perfect window” to examine the changes that occur in the molecular machinery which are a major cause of heart failure.
They believe the added visual detail that the new imaging provides will guide more decisive investigations into how to target or repair these signalling stations or the molecular machines within them more precisely.
For additional information and to request interviews with Dr Isuru Jayasinghe, please contact Simon Moore in the University of Leeds press office on +44 (0)113 34 34031 or email@example.com.
The work was supported by funding from the Human Frontier Science Program, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council of the UK, Wellcome Trust, and the Royal Society of the UK.
Graham Askew, Simon Walker, BBSRC (Jan 2018), £699,781
Jennifer Tomlinson, Royal Society (Jan 2018), £512,801
Jennifer Tomlinson, Royal Society-Research Fellows Enhancement Award (Dec 2017), £94,681
Helen Miller, AB AGri Grant (Dec 2017), £73,600
Simon Walker, Royal Society Enhancement Award (Dec 2017), £10,000
Carrie Ferguson, Bryan Taylor, Harry Rossiter, The Physiological Society (Dec 2017), £7,392
Ralf Richter, Royal Society (Dec 2017), £6,000
Christine Foyer, British Council Newton Fund (Dec 2017), £49,840
Adrian Whitehouse and colleagues in School of Chemistry and University of Liverpool, MRC (Nov 2017), £622,319
Michelle Peckham, Neil Ransom, MRC (Nov 2017), £495,159
Dave Lewis, British Council India (Nov 2017), £22,540
Elton Zeqiraj, Royal Society (Nov 2017), £15,000
Hannah Dugdale, Royal Society (Nov 2017), £15,000
Shaunna Burke, Cancer Research UK Innovation Grant (Nov 2017), £20,000
Alex O'Neill and colleagues in Chemistry, BBSRC (Nov 2017), £431,865
Jessica Kwok, Wings for Life (Nov 2017), £87,365
Tom Bennett, BBSRC (Oct 2017), £523,679
Neil Ranson, Darren Tomlinson, BBSRC (Oct 2017), £494,318
Nikita Gamper, BBSRC (Oct 2017), £490,426
Amanda Bretman and colleagues from UEA, NERC (Oct 2017), £430,886
Juan Fontana, Rosetrees Trust consumables grant (Oct 2017), £22,500
Helen Miller, DSM Nutritional Products AG (Sep 2017), £69,988
Neil Ranson, Juan Fontana, Mark Harris, Michelle Peckham, Ralf Richter, Peter Stockley, Patricija Van Oosten-Hawle and colleagues in Engineering, FMH and MAPS, Wellcome Trust Equipment Call (Sep 2017), £418,000
Jamie Johnston, Physiological Society (Sep 2017), £10,000
Frank Sobott, Adrian Goldman, Mark Harris, Andrew Macdonald, Stephen Muench, Sheena Radford and colleagues in FMH and MAPS, Wellcome Trust Equipment Call (Aug 2017), £415,000
Ralf Richter, David Brockwell, Eric Hewitt, Jessica Kwok, Emanuele Paci and MAPS/FMH, BBSRC (Jun 2017), £600,000
Eric Blair, Adrian Whitehouse, Nicola Stonehouse, Alison Baker, Richard Bayliss, Joan Boyes, Ryan Seipke, Sally Boxall and MAPS/FMH, BBSRC (Jun 2017), £376,000
Stefan Kepinski, Yoselin Benitez-Alfonso, Tom Bennett, Michelle Peckham, BBSRC (Jun 2017), £331,000
Roman Tuma, Lars Jeuken, Paul Millner, Sheena Radford, Peter Stockley and MAPS/FMH, BBSRC (Jun 2017), £222,000
Vas Ponnambalam, Darren Tomlinson, Stephen Wheatcroft, BHF (May 2017), £107,878
Graham Askew in collaboration with Bangor University, BBSRC (Mar 2017), £477,383
Stephen Muench, BBSRC (Mar 2017), £132,945
Nic Stonehouse, MRC (Mar 2017), £906,341
Bill Kunin, Steve Sait, BBSRC (Mar 2017), £602,831
Adrian Goldman, EU (Mar 2017), £546,576
Sheena Radford, Wellcome Trust (Mar 2017), £1,836,482
Beatrice Filippi, Royal Society (Mar 2017), £15,000
Tom Bennett, Royal Society (Mar 2017), £15,000
Jamie Johnston, Royal Society (Mar 2017), £15,000
Ryan Seipke, BBSRC (Feb 2017), £52,116
Mary O'Connell, BBSRC (Feb 2017), £46,986
Hannah Dugdale, NERC (Feb 2017), £504,138
Anastasia Zhuravleva, EPSRC (Jan 2017), £100,792