Researchers at Columbia University in New York City have reported a new approach to visualizing glucose uptake activity in single living cells by light microscopy with minimum disturbance. In a study published online on July 16, 2015 in Angewandte Chemie International Edition, Associate Professor of Chemistry Dr. Wei Min's team developed a new glucose analogue that can mimic the natural glucose, and imaged its uptake as an energy source by living cancer cells, neurons, and tissues at the single cell level. The article is titled “Vibrational Imaging of Glucose Uptake Activity in Live Cells and Tissues by Stimulated Raman Scattering.” Glucose is consumed as an energy source by almost all life forms, from bacteria to human. The uptake of glucose by cells closely reflects their energetic needs, and is becoming poorly regulated in many pathological conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and cancer. To visualize this important process, several prominent techniques have been developed in the past few decades. Radioactive fluorine-18-labeled glucose FDG is widely applied in clinical cancer diagnostics to locate metabolic hot spots in human body using positron emission tomography (PET). Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has recently demonstrated glucose imaging in mouse tumors. Although both methods find great use in clinical application, they do not have sufficient spatial resolution to visualize glucose uptake down to the single cell level To image glucose uptake activity at the cellular level, glucose analogues labeled with fluorescent dyes have been developed. Unfortunately, tagging fluorophores onto glucose alters the chemical properties of glucose. Moreover, fluorescent dyes are always larger than the glucose itself.
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