15 September 2020

This is heating up: mapped the temperature inside human cells

This is heating up: mapped the temperature inside human cells

The temperature plays a central role in the numerous biochemical reactions that regulate life. For example, the intracellular temperature depends on cellular activity, including cell division, gene expression, enzymatic reactions, and pathological states. The cells have developed thermoregulatory mechanisms to neutralize large external temperature changes and to maintain body temperature, an intrinsic mechanism of the cell, that is not yet fully understood.

Polymer nanocapsules embedding light-emitting centers were used to map the temperature inside human cells. Image Credits: Carlos BritesA work published this week in the prestigious scientific journal NanoLetters developed under the FET-Open NanoTBTech program reports the development of a unique tool for real-time temperature mapping inside cells. The joint publication of Portuguese (CICECO, Aveiro) and Spanish (ICMA, Zaragoza) researchers describe innovative nanothermometers that consist of polymer nanocapsules incorporating light-emitting centers and their application in the temperature mapping of human cells (MDA-MB468 cell line).

Carlos Brites and Luís Carlos researchers at CICECO, University of Aveiro reported that a conventional fluorescence microscope has been adapted to real-time recording the light emission from the nanocapsules, which is later converted into the temperature inside the cells. "Our approach allowed the observation of temperature differences between different regions of cancer cells that can reach 20 degrees Celsius", they said.

"These results open new ways for a detailed understanding of the thermal gradients inside the cells," the researchers emphasize, "thus contributing to a better perception of the role played by cell organelles that are generators of thermal energy (such as mitochondria) in cell functions. Moreover, as cancer cells have a higher temperature than healthy cells, this new technique may be very useful for the development of new therapies (such as hyperthermia).


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