Several bioimaging techniques have the potential to image the metabolic process in living cells. Still, many have inherent limitations, such as limited spatial resolution or the need to introduce potentially toxic labeling molecules.
A group of researchers has now developed a promising new alternative by combining stimulated Raman scattering with the use of relatively innocuous deuterium oxide—or heavy water—as a contrast agent, which is easily incorporated into proteins and lipids during metabolic activities.
The new method, known as deuterium oxide probing and stimulated Raman scattering (DO-SRS), is expected to provide high sensitivity and subcellular resolution while also being suitable for in vivo live imaging in mammals.
According to the researcher, “we can use this technology to visualize metabolic activities in a wide range of subjects.” We can learn more about how animals develop and age by tracking where and when new proteins, lipids, and DNA molecules are produced and what goes wrong in the case of injury and disease.
Heavy water is already used to label proteins and lipids to track metabolic changes, but the analysis is usually performed on cells extracted from the body using a mass spectrometer. DO-SRS should enable the visualization of a continuous picture of the processes involving heavy water inside animal cells in situ.