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Light dependent bioenergy

Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP, Curator

LPBI

 

Researchers Snapshot Bacterial Sensor’s Response to Light   5/06/2016

This illustration depicts an experiment at SLAC that revealed how a protein from photosynthetic bacteria changes shape in response to light in less than a trillionth of a second. (Credit: SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory)
This illustration depicts an experiment at SLAC that revealed how a protein from photosynthetic bacteria changes shape in response to light in less than a trillionth of a second. (Credit: SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory)

For the variety of Earth’s fauna and flora, sunlight provides nutrients essential for life.

“Converting light from the sun into energy is what keeps us alive,” Sébastien Boutet, a senior staff scientist at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory’s Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS), toldR&D Magazine.

While scientists know biomolecules harness light to carry out important biological processes, it’s difficult to capture these reactions on the atomic and molecular levels because they occur so quickly.

Boutet, along with a team of international researchers, used the LCLS’ powerful x-ray laser to capture such a reaction at speeds hitherto unattainable.

“We’re trying to see ultrafast reactions” and “the x-ray source that we have here is very unique,” said Boutet, who took a job at LCLS about nine years ago to develop the beam line used in the experiment.

In their study, which was published recently in Science, the team zeroed in on a light-sensitive part of a protein called photoactive yellow protein (PYP). According to SLAC, it functions as a proverbial eye in purple bacteria, allowing the organism to detect blue light and stay away from potentially harmful light.

According to Marius Schmidt, the study’s principal investigator from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, the team is the first to capture real-time snapshots of an ultrafast structure transition, during which a “molecule excited by light relaxed by rearranging its structure in what is known as trans-to-cisisomerization.”

Previously, researchers had studied this PYP at atomic motions as fast as 10 billionths of a second. But with a few tweaks, they were able to glimpse the reaction 1,000 times faster than before.

It was known what was happening at the nanosecond timescale, said Boutet. But now, there’s a window into in the picosecond and sub-picosecond timescale.

During the experiment, the researchers sent a stream of PYP crystals inside a sample chamber, according to SLAC. Then, Boutet explained, they shot the crystals with laser light to start a reaction, then used an x-ray beam to see the reaction.

“Since LCLS’s x-ray pulses are extremely short, lasting only a few quadrillionths of a second, they can in principle probe processes on that very timescale … if the optical laser also matches the tremendous speed,” according to SLAC.

“These types of tools are the way to understand at the atomic and molecular level these reactions that are really essential to life,” said Boutet. “Photosynthesis is the poster child for this. If we could understand this better, we could potentially build better artificial energy conversion using the sun.”

Additionally, this technology could reveal how the human eye’s visual pigments respond to light, helping researchers understand just how excessive absorption damages the human eye.

“The techniques that we use to understand energy conversion is one of the things that LCLS is very useful for,” Boutet concluded.

 

Femtosecond structural dynamics drives the trans/cis isomerization in photoactive yellow protein

Visualizing a response to light

Many biological processes depend on detecting and responding to light. The response is often mediated by a structural change in a protein that begins when absorption of a photon causes isomerization of a chromophore bound to the protein. Pande et al. used x-ray pulses emitted by a free electron laser source to conduct time-resolved serial femtosecond crystallography in the time range of 100 fs to 3 ms. This allowed for the real-time tracking of the trans-cis isomerization of the chromophore in photoactive yellow protein and the associated structural changes in the protein.

Science, this issue p. 725

A variety of organisms have evolved mechanisms to detect and respond to light, in which the response is mediated by protein structural changes after photon absorption. The initial step is often the photoisomerization of a conjugated chromophore. Isomerization occurs on ultrafast time scales and is substantially influenced by the chromophore environment. Here we identify structural changes associated with the earliest steps in the trans-to-cis isomerization of the chromophore in photoactive yellow protein. Femtosecond hard x-ray pulses emitted by the Linac Coherent Light Source were used to conduct time-resolved serial femtosecond crystallography on photoactive yellow protein microcrystals over a time range from 100 femtoseconds to 3 picoseconds to determine the structural dynamics of the photoisomerization reaction.

 

 

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Conduction, graphene, elements and light

Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP, Curator

LPBI

 

New 2D material could upstage graphene   Mar 25, 2016

Can function as a conductor or semiconductor, is extremely stable, and uses light, inexpensive earth-abundant elements
http://www.kurzweilai.net/new-2d-material-could-upstage-graphene
The atoms in the new structure are arranged in a hexagonal pattern as in graphene, but that is where the similarity ends. The three elements forming the new material all have different sizes; the bonds connecting the atoms are also different. As a result, the sides of the hexagons formed by these atoms are unequal, unlike in graphene. (credit: Madhu Menon)

A new one-atom-thick flat material made up of silicon, boron, and nitrogen can function as a conductor or semiconductor (unlike graphene) and could upstage graphene and advance digital technology, say scientists at the University of Kentucky, Daimler in Germany, and the Institute for Electronic Structure and Laser (IESL) in Greece.

Reported in Physical Review B, Rapid Communications, the new Si2BN material was discovered in theory (not yet made in the lab). It uses light, inexpensive earth-abundant elements and is extremely stable, a property many other graphene alternatives lack, says University of Kentucky Center for Computational Sciences physicist Madhu Menon, PhD.

Limitations of other 2D semiconducting materials

A search for new 2D semiconducting materials has led researchers to a new class of three-layer materials called transition-metal dichalcogenides (TMDCs). TMDCs are mostly semiconductors and can be made into digital processors with greater efficiency than anything possible with silicon. However, these are much bulkier than graphene and made of materials that are not necessarily earth-abundant and inexpensive.

Other graphene-like materials have been proposed but lack the strengths of the new material. Silicene, for example, does not have a flat surface and eventually forms a 3D surface. Other materials are highly unstable, some only for a few hours at most.

The new Si2BN material is metallic, but by attaching other elements on top of the silicon atoms, its band gap can be changed (from conductor to semiconductor, for example) — a key advantage over graphene for electronics applications and solar-energy conversion.

The presence of silicon also suggests possible seamless integration with current silicon-based technology, allowing the industry to slowly move away from silicon, rather than precipitously, notes Menon.

https://youtu.be/lKc_PbTD5go

Abstract of Prediction of a new graphenelike Si2BN solid

While the possibility to create a single-atom-thick two-dimensional layer from any material remains, only a few such structures have been obtained other than graphene and a monolayer of boron nitride. Here, based upon ab initiotheoretical simulations, we propose a new stable graphenelike single-atomic-layer Si2BN structure that has all of its atoms with sp2 bonding with no out-of-plane buckling. The structure is found to be metallic with a finite density of states at the Fermi level. This structure can be rolled into nanotubes in a manner similar to graphene. Combining first- and second-row elements in the Periodic Table to form a one-atom-thick material that is also flat opens up the possibility for studying new physics beyond graphene. The presence of Si will make the surface more reactive and therefore a promising candidate for hydrogen storage.

 

Nano-enhanced textiles clean themselves with light

Catalytic uses for industrial-scale chemical processes in agrochemicals, pharmaceuticals, and natural products also seen
http://www.kurzweilai.net/nano-enhanced-textiles-clean-themselves-with-light
Close-up of nanostructures grown on cotton textiles. Image magnified 150,000 times. (credit: RMIT University)

Researchers at at RMIT University in Australia have developed a cheap, efficient way to grow special copper- and silver-based nanostructures on textiles that can degrade organic matter when exposed to light.

Don’t throw out your washing machine yet, but the work paves the way toward nano-enhanced textiles that can spontaneously clean themselves of stains and grime simply by being put under a light or worn out in the sun.

The nanostructures absorb visible light (via localized surface plasmon resonance — collective electron-charge oscillations in metallic nanoparticles that are excited by light), generating high-energy (“hot”) electrons that cause the nanostructures to act as catalysts for chemical reactions that degrade organic matter.

Steps involved in fabricating copper- and silver-based cotton fabrics: 1. Sensitize the fabric with tin. 2. Form palladium seeds that act as nucleation (clustering) sites. 3. Grow metallic copper and silver nanoparticles on the surface of the cotton fabric. (credit: Samuel R. Anderson et al./Advanced Materials Interfaces)

The challenge for researchers has been to bring the concept out of the lab by working out how to build these nanostructures on an industrial scale and permanently attach them to textiles. The RMIT team’s novel approach was to grow the nanostructures directly onto the textiles by dipping them into specific solutions, resulting in development of stable nanostructures within 30 minutes.

When exposed to light, it took less than six minutes for some of the nano-enhanced textiles to spontaneously clean themselves.

The research was described in the journal Advanced Materials Interfaces.

Scaling up to industrial levels

Rajesh Ramanathan, a RMIT postdoctoral fellow and co-senior author, said the process also had a variety of applications for catalysis-based industries such as agrochemicals, pharmaceuticals, and natural productsand could be easily scaled up to industrial levels. “The advantage of textiles is they already have a 3D structure, so they are great at absorbing light, which in turn speeds up the process of degrading organic matter,” he said.

Cotton textile fabric with copper-based nanostructures. The image is magnified 200 times. (credit: RMIT University)

“Our next step will be to test our nano-enhanced textiles with organic compounds that could be more relevant to consumers, to see how quickly they can handle common stains like tomato sauce or wine,” Ramanathan said.

“There’s more work to do to before we can start throwing out our washing machines, but this advance lays a strong foundation for the future development of fully self-cleaning textiles.”


Abstract of Robust Nanostructured Silver and Copper Fabrics with Localized Surface Plasmon Resonance Property for Effective Visible Light Induced Reductive Catalysis

Inspired by high porosity, absorbency, wettability, and hierarchical ordering on the micrometer and nanometer scale of cotton fabrics, a facile strategy is developed to coat visible light active metal nanostructures of copper and silver on cotton fabric substrates. The fabrication of nanostructured Ag and Cu onto interwoven threads of a cotton fabric by electroless deposition creates metal nanostructures that show a localized surface plasmon resonance (LSPR) effect. The micro/nanoscale hierarchical ordering of the cotton fabrics allows access to catalytically active sites to participate in heterogeneous catalysis with high efficiency. The ability of metals to absorb visible light through LSPR further enhances the catalytic reaction rates under photoexcitation conditions. Understanding the modes of electron transfer during visible light illumination in Ag@Cotton and Cu@Cotton through electrochemical measurements provides mechanistic evidence on the influence of light in promoting electron transfer during heterogeneous catalysis for the first time. The outcomes presented in this work will be helpful in designing new multifunctional fabrics with the ability to absorb visible light and thereby enhance light-activated catalytic processes.

 

New type of molecular tag makes MRI 10,000 times more sensitive

Could detect biochemical processes in opaque tissue without requiring PET radiation or CT x-rays
http://www.kurzweilai.net/new-type-of-molecular-tag-makes-mri-10000-times-more-sensitive

Duke scientists have discovered a new class of inexpensive, long-lived molecular tags that enhance MRI signals by 10,000 times. To activate the tags, the researchers mix them with a newly developed catalyst (center) and a special form of hydrogen (gray), converting them into long-lived magnetic resonance “lightbulbs” that might be used to track disease metabolism in real time. (credit: Thomas Theis, Duke University)

Duke University researchers have discovered a new form of MRI that’s 10,000 times more sensitive and could record actual biochemical reactions, such as those involved in cancer and heart disease, and in real time.

Let’s review how MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) works: MRI takes advantage of a property called spin, which makes the nuclei in hydrogen atoms act like tiny magnets. By generating a strong magnetic field (such as 3 Tesla) and a series of radio-frequency waves, MRI induces these hydrogen magnets in atoms to broadcast their locations. Since most of the hydrogen atoms in the body are bound up in water, the technique is used in clinical settings to create detailed images of soft tissues like organs (such as the brain), blood vessels, and tumors inside the body.


MRI’s ability to track chemical transformations in the body has been limited by the low sensitivity of the technique. That makes it impossible to detect small numbers of molecules (without using unattainably more massive magnetic fields).

So to take MRI a giant step further in sensitivity, the Duke researchers created a new class of molecular “tags” that can track disease metabolism in real time, and can last for more than an hour, using a technique called hyperpolarization.* These tags are biocompatible and inexpensive to produce, allowing for using existing MRI machines.

“This represents a completely new class of molecules that doesn’t look anything at all like what people thought could be made into MRI tags,” said Warren S. Warren, James B. Duke Professor and Chair of Physics at Duke, and senior author on the study. “We envision it could provide a whole new way to use MRI to learn about the biochemistry of disease.”

Sensitive tissue detection without radiation

The new molecular tags open up a new world for medicine and research by making it possible to detect what’s happening in optically opaque tissue instead of requiring expensive positron emission tomography (PET), which uses a radioactive tracer chemical to look at organs in the body and only works for (typically) about 20 minutes, or CT x-rays, according to the researchers.

This research was reported in the March 25 issue of Science Advances. It was supported by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Defense Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs Breast Cancer grant, the Pratt School of Engineering Research Innovation Seed Fund, the Burroughs Wellcome Fellowship, and the Donors of the American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund.

* For the past decade, researchers have been developing methods to “hyperpolarize” biologically important molecules. “Hyperpolarization gives them 10,000 times more signal than they would normally have if they had just been magnetized in an ordinary magnetic field,” Warren said. But while promising, Warren says these hyperpolarization techniques face two fundamental problems: incredibly expensive equipment — around 3 million dollars for one machine — and most of these molecular “lightbulbs” burn out in a matter of seconds.

“It’s hard to take an image with an agent that is only visible for seconds, and there are a lot of biological processes you could never hope to see,” said Warren. “We wanted to try to figure out what molecules could give extremely long-lived signals so that you could look at slower processes.”

So the researchers synthesized a series of molecules containing diazarines — a chemical structure composed of two nitrogen atoms bound together in a ring. Diazirines were a promising target for screening because their geometry traps hyperpolarization in a “hidden state” where it cannot relax quickly. Using a simple and inexpensive approach to hyperpolarization called SABRE-SHEATH, in which the molecular tags are mixed with a spin-polarized form of hydrogen and a catalyst, the researchers were able to rapidly hyperpolarize one of the diazirine-containing molecules, greatly enhancing its magnetic resonance signals for over an hour.

The scientists believe their SABRE-SHEATH catalyst could be used to hyperpolarize a wide variety of chemical structures at a fraction of the cost of other methods.


Abstract of Direct and cost-efficient hyperpolarization of long-lived nuclear spin states on universal 15N2-diazirine molecular tags

Abstract of Direct and cost-efficient hyperpolarization of long-lived nuclear spin states on universal 15N2-diazirine molecular tags

Conventional magnetic resonance (MR) faces serious sensitivity limitations, which can be overcome by hyperpolarization methods, but the most common method (dynamic nuclear polarization) is complex and expensive, and applications are limited by short spin lifetimes (typically seconds) of biologically relevant molecules. We use a recently developed method, SABRE-SHEATH, to directly hyperpolarize 15N2 magnetization and long-lived 15N2singlet spin order, with signal decay time constants of 5.8 and 23 min, respectively. We find >10,000-fold enhancements generating detectable nuclear MR signals that last for more than an hour. 15N2-diazirines represent a class of particularly promising and versatile molecular tags, and can be incorporated into a wide range of biomolecules without significantly altering molecular function.

references:

[Seems like they have a great idea, now all they need to do is confirm very specific uses or types of cancers/diseases or other processes they can track or target. Will be interesting to see if they can do more than just see things, maybe they can use this to target and destroy bad things in the body also. Keep up the good work….. this sounds like a game changer.]

 

Scientists time-reverse developed stem cells to make them ‘embryonic’ again

May help avoid ethically controversial use of human embryos for research and support other research goals
http://www.kurzweilai.net/scientists-time-reverse-developed-stem-cells-to-make-them-embryonic-again
Researchers have reversed “primed” (developed) “epiblast” stem cells (top) from early mouse embryos using the drug MM-401, causing the treated cells (bottom) to revert to the original form of the stem cells. (credit: University of Michigan)

University of Michigan Medical School researchers have discovered a way to convert mouse stem cells (taken from an embryo) that have  become “primed” (reached the stage where they can  differentiate, or develop into every specialized cell in the body) to a “naïve” (unspecialized) state by simply adding a drug.

This breakthrough has the potential to one day allow researchers to avoid the ethically controversial use of human embryos left over from infertility treatments. To achieve this breakthrough, the researchers treated the primedembryonic stem cells (“EpiSC”) with a drug called MM-401* (a leukemia drug) for a short period of time.

Embryonic stem cells are able to develop into any type of cell, except those of the placenta (credit: Mike Jones/CC)

…..

* The drug, MM-401, specifically targets epigenetic chemical markers on histones, the protein “spools” that DNA coils around to create structures called chromatin. These epigenetic changes signal the cell’s DNA-reading machinery and tell it where to start uncoiling the chromatin in order to read it.

A gene called Mll1 is responsible for the addition of these epigenetic changes, which are like small chemical tags called methyl groups. Mll1 plays a key role in the uncontrolled explosion of white blood cells in leukemia, which is why researchers developed the drug MM-401 to interfere with this process. But Mll1 also plays a role in cell development and the formation of blood cells and other cells in later-stage embryos.

Stem cells do not turn on the Mll1 gene until they are more developed. The MM-401 drug blocks Mll1’s normal activity in developing cells so the epigenetic chemical markers are missing. These cells are then unable to continue to develop into different types of specialized cells but are still able to revert to healthy naive pluripotent stem cells.


Abstract of MLL1 Inhibition Reprograms Epiblast Stem Cells to Naive Pluripotency

The interconversion between naive and primed pluripotent states is accompanied by drastic epigenetic rearrangements. However, it is unclear whether intrinsic epigenetic events can drive reprogramming to naive pluripotency or if distinct chromatin states are instead simply a reflection of discrete pluripotent states. Here, we show that blocking histone H3K4 methyltransferase MLL1 activity with the small-molecule inhibitor MM-401 reprograms mouse epiblast stem cells (EpiSCs) to naive pluripotency. This reversion is highly efficient and synchronized, with more than 50% of treated EpiSCs exhibiting features of naive embryonic stem cells (ESCs) within 3 days. Reverted ESCs reactivate the silenced X chromosome and contribute to embryos following blastocyst injection, generating germline-competent chimeras. Importantly, blocking MLL1 leads to global redistribution of H3K4me1 at enhancers and represses lineage determinant factors and EpiSC markers, which indirectly regulate ESC transcription circuitry. These findings show that discrete perturbation of H3K4 methylation is sufficient to drive reprogramming to naive pluripotency.


Abstract of Naive Pluripotent Stem Cells Derived Directly from Isolated Cells of the Human Inner Cell Mass

Conventional generation of stem cells from human blastocysts produces a developmentally advanced, or primed, stage of pluripotency. In vitro resetting to a more naive phenotype has been reported. However, whether the reset culture conditions of selective kinase inhibition can enable capture of naive epiblast cells directly from the embryo has not been determined. Here, we show that in these specific conditions individual inner cell mass cells grow into colonies that may then be expanded over multiple passages while retaining a diploid karyotype and naive properties. The cells express hallmark naive pluripotency factors and additionally display features of mitochondrial respiration, global gene expression, and genome-wide hypomethylation distinct from primed cells. They transition through primed pluripotency into somatic lineage differentiation. Collectively these attributes suggest classification as human naive embryonic stem cells. Human counterparts of canonical mouse embryonic stem cells would argue for conservation in the phased progression of pluripotency in mammals.

 

 

How to kill bacteria in seconds using gold nanoparticles and light

March 24, 2016

 

zapping bacteria ft Could treat bacterial infections without using antibiotics, which could help reduce the risk of spreading antibiotics resistance

Researchers at the University of Houston have developed a new technique for killing bacteria in 5 to 25 seconds using highly porous gold nanodisks and light, according to a study published today in Optical Materials Express. The method could one day help hospitals treat some common infections without using antibiotics

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Genetic link to sleep and mood disorders

Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP, Curator

LPBI

 

Scientists identify molecular link between sleep and mood

A poor night’s sleep is enough to put anyone in a bad mood, and although scientists have long suspected a link between mood and sleep, the molecular basis of this connection remained a mystery. Now, new research has found several rare genetic mutations on the same gene that definitively connect the two.

Sleep goes hand-in-hand with mood. People suffering from depression and mania, for example, frequently have altered sleeping patterns, as do those with seasonal affective disorder (SAD). And although no one knows exactly how these changes come about, in SAD sufferers they are influenced by changes in light exposure, the brain’s time-keeping cue. But is mood affecting sleep, is sleep affecting mood, or is there a third factor influencing both? Although a number of tantalizing leads have linked the circadian clock to mood, there is “no definitive factor that proves causality or indicates the direction of the relationship,” says Michael McCarthy, a neurobiologist at the San Diego Veterans’ Affairs Medical Center and the University of California (UC), San Diego.

To see whether they could establish a link between the circadian clock, sleep, and mood, scientists in the new study looked at the genetics of a family that suffers from abnormal sleep patterns and mood disorders, including SAD and something called advanced sleep phase, a condition in which people wake earlier and sleep earlier than normal. The scientists screened the family for mutations in key genes involved in the circadian clock, and identified two rare variants of the PERIOD3 (PER3) gene in members suffering from SAD and advanced sleep phase. “We found a genetic change in people who have both seasonal affective disorder and the morning lark trait” says lead researcher Ying-Hui Fu, a neuroscientist at UC San Francisco. When the team tested for these mutations in DNA samples from the general population, they found that they were extremely rare, appearing in less than 1% of samples.

Fu and her team then created mice that carried the novel genetic variants. These transgenic mice showed an unusual sleep-wake cycle and struggled less when handled by the researchers, a typical sign of depression. They also had lower levels of PER2, a protein involved in circadian rhythms, than unmutated mice, providing a possible molecular explanation for the unusual sleep patterns in the family. Fu says this supports the link between the PER3 mutations and both sleep and mood. “PER3’s role in mood regulation has never been demonstrated directly before,” she says. “Our results indicate that PER3 might function in helping us adjust to seasonal changes,” by modifying the body’s internal clock.

To investigate further, the team studied mice lacking a functional PER3 gene. They found that these mice showed symptoms of SAD, exhibiting more severe depression when the duration of simulated daylight in the laboratory was reduced. Because SAD affects between 2% and 9% of people worldwide, the novel variants can’t explain it fully. But understanding the function of PER3 could yield insights into the molecular basis of a wide range of sleep and mood disorders, Fu says.

Together, these experiments show that the PERIOD3 gene likely plays a key role in regulating the sleep-wake cycle, influencing mood and regulating the relationship between depression and seasonal changes in light availability, the team reports today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “The identification of a mutation in PER3 with such a strong effect on mood is remarkable,” McCarthy says. “It suggests an important role for the circadian clock in determining mood.”

The next step will be to investigate how well these results generalize to other people suffering from mood and sleep disorders. “It will be interesting to see if other rare variants in PER3 are found, or if SAD is consistently observed in other carriers,” McCarthy says. That could eventually lead to new drugs that selectively target the gene, which McCarthy says, “could be a strategy for treating mood or sleep disorders.”

 

http://dx.doi.org:/10.1126/science.aaf4095

 

 

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