Tuesday, June 03, 2008


I've written about spectroscopy for analysing solids and gases so it's about time for a living organism. Biospectroscopy is used to solve biological problems and reveal the chemistry of individual cells.
It uses a combination of visible light and infrared techniques to chemically analyse individual cells. That's an individual cell not a cell cluster and since cancer causes chemical changes in cells long before morphological changes, analysis of a single cell could lead the way to much earlier diagnosis of cancer. Early diagnosis of cervical cancer in women is under this type of research at the School of Biospectroscopy at Monash University using the Australian Synchrotron.

Microalgae are good idicators of the health of oceans and are the basis of the aquatic food chain. Fourier-transform spectroscopy is used to study algae where the change in a live single cell alga is recorded over a period of time. The alga can be stressed by too much ultra-violet light, increased carbon dioxide, deprived of nutrients, over-nourished, deprived of light, exposed to pollution.

By analysing the the spectra of the bio-chemical changes, researchers can see how a single alga responds to this external stress in their environment. They can measure how much the proteins, fats, silica and carbohydrates change over time.

And this is how to hold a single cell for analysis. A method called acoustic levitation which was developed for zero gravity experiments in space and successfully adapted for earth laboratories.

This image of a drop of blood in an ultrasonic acoustic levitation device won Steven Morton equal first place in the Eureka Museum Science Photography section, 2007. "This set-up enables us to probe the molecular structure of living cells without interference from any surface and without perturbing the morphology of the cells. It is part of the technique used by researchers at Monash University in Melbourne to monitor drug uptake by red blood cells that are affected by a range of diseases, including malaria and sickle cell disease."


River said...

Acoustic levitation, how cool is that! Amazing the things that scientists can do.

Brian Hughes said...

"The alga can be stressed by too much ultra-violet light..."

Serves 'em right for partying all night.

Lad Litter said...

As a teenager, I was nearly acoustically levitated by my all neighbours acting in concert when my garage band started up. Boom-tish!

Big wow factor in these posts of yours, Jahteh. BTW did you see catalyst on Vesuvius last week? Why Pompeiian houses survived, but not their rooves.

JahTeh said...

River, I'm still trying to get my head around how it works. It's logical when you think about liquid experiments in a space shuttle.

The little dears are so delicate not like Fell sheep.

I didn't watch it because that is Mother's shopping day and I'm comatose until Stargate Atlantis at midnight. I did see the Kobe houses from that earthquake where the tiles were designed to withstand typhoons but collapsed in the quake.
What would you have done with YouTube back in those days. Lad litter and his boy band, swoon.

Bwca said...

bloody hell