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Trojan Horses, xenon imaging and remote controlled genes

PHILADELPHIA As our understanding of biology increases, the tools of research become almost as important as the researchers wielding them. Currently, one of the major obstacles to research is actually getting inside of cells and tissue to see what is going on as it happens.

At the University of Pennsylvania, researchers are caging molecules xenon, gene-blocking strands of antisense DNA and even therapeutics to facilitate their entry into cells and enable researchers to observe nature's biochemical clockwork.

Ivan Dmochowski, an assistant professor in Penn's Department of Chemistry, details the methods that his lab is developing for the next generation of imaging, today at 9:30 a.m. at the American Chemical Society's 228th National Meeting here.

"We are developing techniques to control and study biomolecules within cells and living systems," Dmochowski said. "The most immediate payoff from this research will be in figuring out how proteins interact in real time inside living organisms as well as how diseases, especially cancer, progress through the body."

Xenon-Enhanced Magnetic Resonance Imaging

While magnetic resonance imaging has already become a useful tool for research, Penn chemists hope to greatly extend the capabilities of MRI for monitoring multiple cancer markers simultaneously using the noble gas xenon as an imaging agent. By encapsulating a single atom of xenon within a cage made of cryptophane, it can become a sensitive reporter of changes outside the cage. When the cage is "rattled" by a specific cancer protein, for example, the xenon molecule will emit a telltale signal that can be tracked by MRI.

"Based on this principle, our lab is generating new biosensors that we hope will identify biomarkers associated with cancers of the lungs, brain and pancreas," Dmochowski said. "Over time, we'll be able to use MRI to detect aberrant proteins that cause cancer in humans before the actual formation
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Contact: Greg Lester
glester@pobox.upenn.edu
215-573-6604
University of Pennsylvania
24-Aug-2004


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