A Wired magazine article reports on a new laser developed by Sandia National Laboratories, called a biocavity laser, that has the ability to actually watch the inner workings of a single cell.
The biocavity laser can show scientists the inner workings of a single cell. Paul Gourley and his colleagues at Sandia proved the laser could do that by studying cancer cells. The beam measured changes in cells’ architecture caused by cancer, including alterations in protein density, cytoskeleton shape and mitochondria.
Structural changes at the mitochondrial level can be observed to see the discrete configurations that stems cells make internally as they differentiate. Combining that data with cancer data could lead to significant insights into which protein markers are involved with cellular signaling.
Gourley and his colleagues recently showed the laser could give a detailed picture of a single cell’s mitochondria, which is the cell’s power supply. In cancer cells, the mitochondria break down and change shape, a metamorphosis the laser could detect. The ability to see that change in a single cell makes the laser a powerful diagnostic tool. Clinicians could determine whether a patient has cancer based on an extremely small sample. Rather than performing an invasive biopsy, sending the specimen out for testing, and waiting a week or two for the results, the laser could give a diagnosis on the spot.
This is the first time that we’ll be able to see how a cell develops at a subcellular level in this much detail, and the technology promises to increase our understanding of this very complex process.
More at Sandia N.L.…
More about the biocavity laser…
Here is picture’s caption:
The schematic figure shows cells placed in the laser cavity formed with semiconductor and dielectric mirror surfaces. The semiconductor is photopumped by a separate laser to generate electron-hole pairs which recombine to emit light. The cells act as transparent waveguides to channel the light between mirrors and aid the lasing process. Stable optical modes confined by the cells, illustrated in the lower left diagram, will support lasing. Near field lasing images are shown on the right side for normal and sickled red blood cells. Also shown are corresponding lasing spectra which span 8845 to 860 nm on the horizontal wavelength scale and 3 orders of magnitude on the vertical logarithmic scale. The spectra provide unique signatures and can be used to identify the cell type, size and shape.