Researchers have modified molecules and used the fluorescence they emit to measure the temperature inside the cells. A way that could be used to identify which ones would be cancerous.
This is probably one of the smallest thermometers ever: American researchers have designed a nano-thermometer to take the temperature of the cells. In Journal of Physical Chemistry B, they explain how they managed to create this new tool.
To measure the consequences of radiotherapy
According to the researchers, measuring the temperature of the cells makes it possible to quantify the effects of a radiofrequency on the body because this technique involves destroying a tumor by heat. The nano-thermometer may be able to detect cancer. "We would like to know if we can identify cancer cells by the heat it produces," says Angel Martí, the lead author of this study.
Using the fluorescence of a molecule
The research team at Rice University in the United States used a molecule called boron-dipyromethene. The latter emits a fluorescence whose duration varies according to two parameters: the temperature and the viscosity of the environment in which it is located. If it has a high viscosity, which means a strong resistance in physics, then the level of fluorescence depends only on the temperature. But in the case of cells typical of the human body, the viscosity is high. Then, the researchers were interested in the level of excitability of the molecule by studying its movements thanks to a tool equipped with a rotation system. The greater the excitability, the higher the temperature. All these steps are part of the operation of the nano-thermometer.
The cells can be well over 38 ° C ...
In 2016, a study showed that it can reach up to 50 ° C in mitochondria. These are often compared to power plants, because it is these structures that make ATP, a molecule that provides energy to different parts of the body including muscles.