Researchers have developed a nanofluidic scattering microscopy technique to study biomolecules in their natural state. When developing medicines and vaccines, it is crucial to study individual proteins’ behavior and interaction with each other. The new microscopy method can help find the most promising candidates at an early stage.
The technique also has the potential for use in conducting research into the way cells communicate with one another by secreting molecules and other biological nanoparticles. These processes play an essential role in our immune response.
Biomolecules are both small and elusive but vital since they are the building blocks of everything living. To get them to reveal their secrets using optical microscopy, researchers currently need to either mark them with a fluorescent label or attach them to a surface.
The nanofluidic scattering microscopy method flushes biomolecules through a chip containing nanochannels. The researchers added a test fluid to the chip illuminated with visible light. The interaction between the light, the molecule, and the small fluid-filled channels make the molecule inside appear as a dark shadow and visible on the screen connected to the microscope. By studying it, researchers can not only see but also determine the mass and size of the biomolecule and obtain indirect information about its shape – something that was not previously possible with a single technique.