A Sensor Molecule to Visualize Signals from Brain and Heart

Measuring calcium concentrations deep inside tissue.

A Sensor Molecule to Visualize Signals from Brain and Heart
Calcium waves – a new sensor converts light to sound to visualize calcium fluxes in the body. (Image: B. van Rossum / G. Westmeyer)

The concentration of calcium in and around cells monitors the key processes in the body. Now, scientists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) in collaboration with the Helmholtz Zentrum München have devised a sensor molecule to visualize calcium in living animals.

The sensor is the first sensor molecule that works with the help of a radiation-free imaging technique known as optoacoustics.

Calcium is a critical ambassador for the body. In nerve cells, for instance, calcium ions decide if signals are handed-off to other nerve cells. What’s more, regardless of whether muscle contracts or unwinds relies upon the grouping of calcium in the muscle cells. This is likewise valid for the most crucial muscle in our body– the heart.

Gil Gregor Westmeyer, Professor of Molecular Imaging at TUM said, “Because calcium plays such an important role in essential organs such as the heart and brain, it would be interesting to be able to observe how calcium concentrations change deep within living tissues which can also improve our understanding of disease processes. Our sensor molecule is a small first step in this direction.”

Due to a non-invasive imaging method, the sensor can effectively measure calcium concentrations, which makes it suitable for use in living animals– and later possibly also in humans. The method also involves Laser pulses heat up to photoabsorb sensor molecule in tissue.

This makes the particle extend quickly, bringing about the age of ultrasound signals. The signs are then detected by ultrasound identifiers and are converted into three-dimensional pictures.

As light goes through tissue, it is scattered. Consequently, pictures under a light magnifying instrument wind up noticeably obscured at profundities of not as much as a millimeter. This features another favorable position of optoacoustics: ultrasound experiences next to no disseminating, delivering sharp pictures even at profundities of a few centimeters.

This is especially helpful for analyzing the mind, in light of the fact that current strategies just infiltrate a couple of millimeters underneath the cerebrum surface. In any case, the cerebrum has such an intricate three-dimensional structure with different practical territories that the surface just makes up a little piece of it.

The scientists subsequently plan to utilize the new sensor to quantify calcium changes somewhere inside living tissue. They have just accomplished outcomes in the brains of zebrafish hatchlings.

This sensor molecule is harmless to tissues and works based on a color change. As it binds calcium, it changes the color which thus changes the light-induced optoacoustic signal.

Scientists are now planning to refine the properties of the molecule further. This will allow the sensor signals to be measured in even deeper tissue layers.