Cells are problematically small. Monitoring the behaviour of molecules inside living cells presents scientists with quite a challenge. But detecting the changing concentrations of chemicals on a microscopic scale and millisecond timeframe can reveal a lot. And new techniques are providing better ways to sense these changes. Growing living cells on gold microchips like the one shown here, allows measurement of chemical concentration in real time, and in microscopic detail. The chip records electrochemical data, which are interpreted as biochemical goings on within the cells. The potential is far-reaching, from ascertaining how nerve cell behaviour changes with age, to identifying which molecules spur on angiogenesis [the growth of new blood vessels]. These microengineered sensors are certainly opening a new window into the private life of the cell.
Written by Anthony Lewis
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