[ASC-media] Media release- lighting up cells to see disease

Felicity Jensz felicity at freeradical.org.au
Wed Oct 18 08:32:27 CEST 2006


Australian scientists have devised a new method to see the damage 
that diseases, such as cancer, cause in our living cells by making 
the cells light up.

Dr Steve Bottle and his team, from the ARC Centre of Excellence for 
Free Radical Chemistry and Biotechnology, have taken the principle of 
fluorescence, which occurs when samples are exposed to certain types 
of light, and applied it to human cells.

With the right treatment our cells can produce tiny amounts of 
fluorescent light. Dr Bottle and his team have made new fluorescent 
compounds with one important difference-the presence of a component 
that short-circuits the fluorescence so that initially no light is 
emitted and so the cells stay dark.

"What makes these new compounds exciting", says Dr Bottle, "is that 
this short-circuit effect is removed by the action of free radicals 
during cellular metabolism and the fluorescence then becomes switched 
on-thus lighting up the parts of the cell where the radicals are 

Free radicals are highly reactive fragments of molecules that can 
damage many biological molecules including DNA, proteins and fats. 
For this reason they have been proposed as key damaging agents in 
some cancers, in the ageing process, and in heart disease. The highly 
reactive nature of free radicals, has made them very difficult to 
detect up to now, but this new technique provides a powerful new way 
of seeing them in our cells. This will lead to a better understanding 
of free radical damage and possible ways of restricting it.

The Dr Bottle's technique will soon be used by Professor Mike Davies 
from the Heart Research Institute in Sydney, who is also part of the 
same ARC Centre of Excellence, to visualise the effects of free 
radical damage to proteins in the development of heart disease. "One 
thing that has been hindering research in this area is a good means 
to see and measure the impact of damaging free radicals in heart 
disease," says Professor Davies "This new technique gives a real 
chance of achieving this goal".

There are other applications for this new technique outside the human 
body as free radicals are also responsible for the degradation of 
paints and surface coating. "Applications for this technique are wide 
ranging", says Dr Bottle "and this new tool will contribute to 
further advances in biotechnology, material science, and medicine for 
which Australia is renowned."

Full media release, background information and photos on the COMMUNITY PAGES of
www.freeradical.org.au  or contact  felicity at freeradical.org.au or 
0404 804 383

The ARC Centre of Excellence for Free Radical Chemistry has nodes at 
the University of Melbourne, The Australian National University, 
Heart Research Institute (The University of Sydney), Queensland 
University of Technology, and the Victorian Pharmacy College (Monash 
University) and over 100 associates. For more information on the 
Centre see www.freeradical.org.au
Felicity Jensz
Community Awareness Programme Manager
ARC Centre of Excellence for Free Radical Chemistry and Biotechnology
Bio21 Institute
The University of Melbourne, 3010
Tel: +61 3 8344 2427
Mob: 0404 804 384

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