Taking a cell's temperature

30 January 2007

Taking the temperature of individual parts of living cells could soon be possible thanks to researchers in Japan.

The news is reported in the latest edition of the Royal Society of Chemistry journal The Analyst.

Dr Seiichi Uchiyama and a team at Tokyo University have developed thermometers consisting of mixtures of heat-responsive fluorescent polymers.

Dr Uchiyama said: "These thermometers can be used to accurately map two or three dimensional temperature distributions in extremely small spaces."

The polymers undergo temperature-induced structural changes, which alter the colour of light they fluoresce.

Temperature changes as small as 0.2 degrees Celsius can be detected with the polymers - much more sensitive than previous methods.

A cut-away representation of a eukaryotic cell

Aggregation - where polymer particles stick together - prevented previous thermometers of this type delivering accurate results.

Dr Uchiyama said: "By adding an ionic component to one of the polymers in the mixture, we prevented aggregation taking place."

Dr Prasanna de Silva, an expert in fluorescence sensors from Queen's University, Belfast, said: "These developments are important for thermal imaging research."

The ultimate aim of the research is to measure the temperature of different components of living cells - called 'organelles' - to determine how temperature plays a role in their function.

with thanks to Nina Athey-Pollard for the original article


Accurate fluorescent polymeric thermometers containing an ionic component  C Gota, S Uchiyama and T Ohwada, Analyst, 2007, 132, 121 DOI: 10.1039/b615168j

Taking a cell's temperature

Dreams of mapping temperature differences within biological cells may soon come true, say researchers in Japan.

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