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IIT Mandi develops technology to show distribution of water inside bio cells


Research team at IIT Mandi has developed new fluorescent nanodot markers to show the distribution of water inside biological cells, could enable an alternate and easier way of detecting cancer cells

A research team at Indian Institute of Technology, Mandi has developed new fluorescent nanodots to show how water is distributed inside biological cells. Their preliminary research indicates that the distribution of water inside normal cells is different from the insides of cancerous cells. The development, if understood better through future studies, could enable an alternative easy way of detecting cancer cells.

The nanodot developed by the team, led by Dr. Chayan K. Nandi, is made of carbon and contains both hydrophilic (water loving) and hydrophobic (water hating) parts, much like a soap molecule. The presence of water repellent and water attracting parts within the same nanodot make them organise themselves according to the nature of the hydrogen bonding caused by the water molecules, like the formation of soap micelles around grease. In addition, the nanodot can fluoresce, i.e. emit light in the far ultraviolet wavelengths when illuminated with near ultraviolet light, and the time taken before it fluoresces depends upon the micellar arrangement of the nanodots around the hydrogen bonding network.

By introducing these nanodots into cells, Dr. Nandi and his research team have shown that the hydrogen bonds, and hence, water contents are different in different parts of the cell. Another major observation was that the hydrogen bonding network is different in cancer and normal cells. Their work provides the first evidence that the nuclei of cancer cells contains more free water than normal cells.

Speaking about the significance of this research, Dr. Nandi said,“It has been difficult to understand and experimentally analyse the extent of hydrogen bonding in intercellular water. This is the first probe to provide direct evidence of the hydrogen bonding network in an entire cell.”

He added that given the difference in water distribution in different types of cells, future research would enable the utilization of these nanodots to detect dysfunctional and diseased cells.

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