Gene Mutations Can Be Measured With Optical Tweezers

by Julia Samuel on  September 13, 2017 at 7:23 PM Research News
RSS Email Print This Page Comment bookmark
Font : A-A+

By measuring small changes in interactions between molecules inside the body, an international team of researchers has found a way to diagnose disease and predict patient outcomes.
Gene Mutations Can Be Measured With Optical Tweezers
Gene Mutations Can Be Measured With Optical Tweezers

The simple new technique could offer vastly superior predictions of disease severity in a huge range of conditions with a genetic component, such as Alzheimer's, autism, cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, schizophrenia and depression.

Measuring Gene Mutations

Gene mutations that cause disease physically alter the interactions of molecules that cells use to communicate with each other. Until now, scientists have had no easy way to measure the incredibly subtle changes in these interaction forces.

But researcher J. Julius Zhu, PhD, of the University of Virginia School of Medicine, and his collaborators have developed a method to accurately and efficiently calculate these tiny changes. It's a feat that requires incredible precision: Force is typically measured in newtons - the amount of force needed to accelerate one kilogram of mass one meter per second squared - but Zhu's technique measures on a scale of piconewtons - one trillionth of a newton.

Zhu, of UVA's Department of Pharmacology, and his colleagues have used the new technique to show that gene mutations responsible for mental-health diseases change molecular interactions by a few piconewtons.

These small changes then have a tremendous ripple effect. The researchers found the molecular changes lead to harmful changes in how the cells communicate - and, ultimately, in cognitive ability.

By measuring the molecular changes, the scientists could predict the resulting cognitive impairment. In essence, the researchers are directly linking these tiny molecular changes to big changes in human behavior.

Diagnosing Disease

Zhu's approach represents a new use for a high-tech scientific instrument called "optical tweezers" that uses a highly focused laser to hold and move microscopic objects, much like regular tweezers might be used to grip and move a splinter.

Using the optical tweezers, the scientists can measure the force required to break up intermolecular bonds between the signaling molecules inside the body, allowing them gauge the effects of gene mutations in patients.

The researchers say the technique is simple to do and will dramatically improve our ability to diagnose mental illness and many other diseases.

Source: Eurekalert

Post a Comment

Comments should be on the topic and should not be abusive. The editorial team reserves the right to review and moderate the comments posted on the site.
Notify me when reply is posted
I agree to the terms and conditions

More News on:

DNA Finger Printing McArdle Disease Weaver Syndrome 

News A - Z

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

News Search

Medindia Newsletters

Subscribe to our Free Newsletters!

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.

Find a Doctor

Stay Connected

  • Available on the Android Market
  • Available on the App Store

News Category

News Archive

Loading...