09 Oct Tweaking Molecular Rotors Improves Ability to Measure Cell Viscosity
MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dr. Aurimas Vyšniauskas PhD
Center for Physical Sciences and Technology
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?
Response: Fluorescent viscosity sensors (also known as molecular rotors) are small molecules that emit light when excited by a laser and the lifetime of their emission is affected by viscosity around the molecule. Higher is the viscosity, longer is the duration of the emission. These molecules are especially useful for sensing viscosity in small biological objects, like a living cell. This is very tricky to do using other methods simply due to a very small size of a cell. Many scientists are interested in the viscosity inside the cell because it tells us how quickly various proteins and other molecules move and reactions in a cell occur. Knowing this information would help us to better understand how various diseases, such as diabetes or Alzheimers, change inner environment of affected cells.
MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?
Response: We have shown that by replacing a small group of atoms in the structure of a viscosity sensor, which seems like an insignificant change, alters the properties of the sensor very significantly. In particular, we have shown that by doing this small change our sensor became suitable for measuring viscosity over much wider range. While currently the most widely used sensor can sense viscosity between 1 cP (viscosity of water) and 1500 cP (viscosity of glycerol), our new sensor is capable to measuring viscosity between 0.5 cP and 50 000 cP. This is similar to having a thermometer measures temperature between 0 °C and 100 °C compared to one that can measure only between 20 °C and 50 °C.
In addition, we have also explained why exactly this new sensor has such wide viscosity-sensitive range, which will help other scientists making sensors in the future.
MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?
Response: Seemingly small changes in structures of molecules can result in very different properties. One needs to have a good understanding of how a molecule or a sensor under investigation works to have a good idea on how to tune the properties of the sensor.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?
Response: A significant part of research on new fluorescent sensors is done by synthesizing a large number of molecules and the hoping that some of them will have desired properties. Even though this is a sensible course of action, the process is more efficient when the effort is spent on investigating how exactly these sensors work. Once you know this it is significantly easier to make new and better molecular tools for your needs.
I would like to thank my collaborators from Vilnius University – dr. Stepas Toliautas, prof. Juozas Šulskus, dr. Jelena Dodonova, prof. Sigitas Tumkevičius, who greatly helped in synthesizing and then theoretically calculating properties of fluorescent viscosity sensors. I would also thank the Research Council of Lithuania for funding this research.
S. Toliautas, J. Dodonova, A. Žvirblis, I. Čiplys, A. Polita, A. Devižis, S. Tumkevičius, J. Šulskus, A. Vyšniauskas, Chem. Eur. J. 2019, 25, 10342.
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