Self-Destructing Latent Fluorophores for Dynamic Imaging
Bio-imaging – the various processes by which scientists are able to peer into living organisms – has yielded astonishing advancements in pure knowledge, as well as new medical treatments and an increasing ability to manipulate various organisms. But bio-imaging has yet to reach its full potential, Winter points out, because researchers lack chemical probes that can fully reveal how enzymes behave in living cells. (Enzymes are proteins that act as catalysts, speeding up or inhibiting the work of the cell as programmed by the DNA instructions contained in the cell’s nucleus.) Currently, fluorescent dyes are used to reveal enzyme activity. But the problem is that these dyes can’t be “switched off,” a shortcoming that limits researchers to a “snapshot” view of an enzyme at work. What’s needed is moving pictures. To achieve this goal, Winter proposes incorporating a molecular “suicide switch” into the chemical structure of the dyes to kill their glow when required. Given a “family” of these dyes that go dark at various tunable rates, researchers will be better able to image both fast and slow enzyme activities in the cell in real time. Winter’s education plan involves three major initiatives that fit with Iowa State’s mission: He will expose freshmen in advanced general chemistry classes to real-world research much earlier in their academic careers by giving them the opportunity to interview successful female faculty, with the video interviews posted online. He will also edit a new edition of Pushing Electrons, a workbook for undergraduate organic chemistry. And he will add new animated illustrations to his highly-popular Organic Chemistry Help! Website (chemhelper.com). It helps undergraduates to visualize chemical reactions.