A biochemical reaction between an enzyme called luciferase and oxygen causes fireflies to glow and is considered one of the best-known examples of bioluminescence in nature. Today, an international team of researchers led by Elena Goun of the University of Missouri are working to harness the power of bioluminescence in a low-cost, non-invasive portable medical imaging device that could one day be applied to many uses. in biomedical research, translational medicine. and clinical diagnostics.
Potential uses include developing better treatments for cancer, diabetes and infectious diseases, as well as monitoring various metabolic functions, such as gut health, in animals and humans, said Goun, associate professor of chemistry. at the College of Arts and Sciences and corresponding author. on the study published in Nature communications.
“This is the first example of a low-cost portable bioluminescence imaging tool that can be used in large, non-transgenic animals such as dogs,” Goun said. “The mobility and cost-effectiveness of this technology also make it a powerful tool for use in many areas of preclinical research, clinical research and diagnostics.”
Once the imaging probe is inserted into the body and reaches a targeted internal organ, such as the liver, the level of biological activity, such as liver toxicity, determines how much luciferin is released into the bloodstream. Eventually, it reaches the area of the device, triggering a biochemical reaction that creates light. A portable light detector – about 10 millimeters, smaller than the diameter of a penny – is then placed on the surface of the body near the inserted device and measures the intensity of the light. The level of light detected correlates with the amount of luciferin present, which scientists can then use to determine the health of the targeted organ.
Jeffrey Bryan, professor of veterinary oncology at the College of Veterinary Medicine and co-author of the study, said the technology would be useful in a clinical setting – both in animal and human medicine – where healthcare professionals can determine if a treatment is working inside a patient.
“This is one way we can monitor, in a minimally invasive manner, a patient’s physiological response to any treatment given to them,” said Bryan, who is also associate director of comparative oncology at Ellis Fischel Cancer. MU Center. “Right now, most of the time, we look for answers to treatment by asking the patient how they are feeling and then doing large, invasive and expensive tests to see if the treatment is working. Sometimes this requires multiple procedures. But if we can monitor the desired effect in a minimally invasive manner and continue to monitor progress over a long period of time with this technology, that would likely reduce the need for more invasive testing. “
In addition to the benefits of this technology’s diagnostic testing, Goun said their approach could have the potential to dramatically reduce the number of dogs, cats and non-human primates used for experimental testing by commercial development companies. drugs.
“Portable bioluminescent platform for in vivo monitoring of biological processes in non-transgenic animals”, was published in Nature communications.
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