A better understanding of the way metabolism works may, in the long run, make it easier to find new medicines for diseases such as diabetes. By combining different methods taken from physics, the freshly-minted Ph.D. researcher Anna-Karin Gustavsson, of the University of Gothenberg, Sweden, has been able to study metabolism in individual cells. The objective of these research studies is to see what cells do when there are changes in their environment. In her work, Dr. Gustavsson has created a specially designed microfluidic chip containing channels through which different solutions are able to flow. With the aid of optical tweezers, a highly focused laser beam, she captures individual cells for placing at the point where the channels intersect. This intersection between the channels is where the cells' immediate environment can change very rapidly. “By using a microscope, I have been able to monitor what the cells do when there are changes in their environment. I discovered that the concentration of molecules in the metabolism of individual cells while these [cells] are breaking down sugars could, under specific conditions, be made to rock; i.e., oscillate.” Up to this moment, it had never been possible to achieve the monitoring of oscillations in individual cells, despite there being many publications describing attempts to do this in high-ranking journals. “The ability to confirm that this [does indeed] take place in individual, isolated cells is something new,” says Dr. Gustavsson, who, together with her colleagues has also produced a mathematical model for the behavior of the cells during glycolysis, the process whereby sugars are broken down in our cells to create energy. In both human cells and yeast cells, which are the focus of Dr.
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