Researchers at Northwestern University’s Department of Radiation Oncology and the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Argonne National Laboratory recently deployed a new non-destructive X-ray microscopy solution to image cryogenically preserved cells and advance studies of intra-cellular biology. Northwestern’s joint development of trace element imaging methodologies with the DOE Office of Science’s Advanced Photon Source (APS), Argonne’s synchrotron radiation facility, informs the study and potential treatment of cancer, neurological disorders and other diseases and conditions involving the accumulation of metals within cells.
The Bionanoprobe represents the only imaging solution able to deliver high-resolution x-ray trace element mapping and tomography of cryogenically preserved samples down to 30 nanometers. Dr. Gayle Woloschak, Professor of Radiation Oncology at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, believes these combined capabilities will uniquely advance researchers’ understanding of what occurs inside cells.
“We’ll be asking questions such as: What role do trace metals such as Zinc or Iron play in natural cellular processes like cell division and aging? Can we get nanoparticles into the nucleus and produce the reaction we want? What part of a cell does Mercury or Plutonium end up in when exposure occurs?” says Dr. Woloschak. “We will now be able to detect patterns and basic biological processes with much greater sensitivity than we could in the past.”
The need for an x-ray imaging instrument that could achieve the resolution and sensitivity obtained by the Bionanoprobe was identified by Dr. Woloschak and a group of colleagues more than a decade ago, and its development was made possible by recent U.S. government stimulus programs. “Over the years, the community of x-ray fluorescence microscopy researchers has identified a number of requirements that need to be met to take this area of science to the next level,” says Dr. Stefan Vogt, Microscopy Group Leader at the APS, who contributed to the design of the Bionanoprobe. “We really needed a new class of instruments that can image whole, unsectioned cells in 3D, in their natural, hydrated state, and at a resolution significantly below 100 nm.”
The Bionanoprobe is also the first imaging solution to combine ultra-high resolution trace element mapping with cryogenic sample preservation and tomographic capabilities. Cryo preservation is essential to study cells and tissue in a state closely resembling that of being alive, while minimizing the effects of radiation damage that can distort the results. Tomography, or 3D imaging, is needed to exactly localize the features of interest inside the cell.
This story is reprinted from material from Xradia, with editorial changes made by Materials Today. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of Elsevier.