Cells' Secrets Revealed

A Georgia Tech research team is using a modified atomic force microscope (AFM) to study the role of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) in cystic fibrosis (CF). Although a link has been discovered between elevated levels of ATP, a chemical associated with energy transport, and CF, quantitative measurements at the cell surface that might help explain the trigger mechanism have proved elusive.

Modifications to the AFM consisted of adding recessed micro-and nanoelectrodes to the tip, in effect combining an AFM with a scanning electrochemical microscope to take advantage of the capabilities of both. This "universal tool" can simultaneously monitor both topography and electrochemical activity at the cellular level.

According to researcher Boris Mizaikoff, many pathological events disrupt chemical communication and molecular signaling among cells, and knowing more about the way cells communicate will be helpful in new treatments for disease. "Being able to operate sensors in an electrochemical imaging mode at the micro-and nanoscale is an exciting opportunity for complementing optical imaging techniques. There are many clinical research problems that these biosensors can help with," Mizaikoff notes.

For the ATP study, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and carried out in collaboration with Douglas Eaton at Emory University's School of Physiology, the Georgia Tech investigators used the modified AFM to study ATP release at the surface of live epithelial cells, those that cover most glands and organs in the body.

In addition to Mizaikoff and Eaton, the researchers consisted of team leader Christine Kranz, Jean-Francois Masson (photo), and Justyna Wiedemair.

(For the full report, go to www.sensorsmag.com/0706/RDCell

Boris Mizaikoff, 404-894-4030 or 404-936-5367, [email protected], or Christine Kranz, 404-385-1794, [email protected] . Both are at The Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA.