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A New Era of Light at Tsukuba

2014.06.21

Unit Name:
Bioimaging by Frontier Molecules
Unit representative:
Professor Tatsuo Arai, Faculty of Pure and Applied Sciences

Unit members:
9 (8 faculty members, 0 postdoctoral fellows, 1 from other organizations)

Key words:
Photochemistry, fluorescence, bioimaging, functional molecules, molecular assembly

 

     The 21st century is referred to as the “era of light.” The modification and reaction control of compounds using light energy are attracting attention. Chemical research is roughly divided into: (1) compound synthesis, (2) investigation of the physical properties, functions, and reactivities of the synthesized compounds, (3) modification of compound structures, and (4) utilization of the synthesized compounds. Currently, research and development are being conducted throughout the world to utilize optical properties, such as low toxicity and high sensitivity, for biological visualization. The research unit “Bioimaging by frontier molecules” combines state-of-the-art molecular synthesis techniques with spectroscopic properties, promoting the “development of the biological imaging field” at Tsukuba.

Photochemical techniques and findings are applied to biological imaging by a team of researchers from different fields

     To observe cell membrane structures, organelle distribution, and protein functions in living cells, equipment-based techniques and observation methods should be improved, and novel labeling substances with high sensitivity and high spatial and temporal resolution should be developed. Some compounds show light-emitting behaviors that change with the surrounding environment (Figure 1) or non-linear optical phenomena*1. Our unit is applying photochemical techniques and findings to biological imaging in collaboration with researchers in the fields of chemistry, biology and medicine inside and outside the university. Meanwhile, we developed a novel biological imaging molecule, “Tsukuba-green” (novel fluorescent dye), that can turn on and off light emission (Figure 2), and reported our results in an English journal.

Figure 1: Compounds with light-emitting behaviors that change with the surrounding environment

Figure 1: Compounds with light-emitting behaviors that change with the surrounding environment

Figure 2: Fluorescent probe "Tsukuba-green" that can turn on and off fluorescence inside and outside cells

Figure 2: Fluorescent probe “Tsukuba-green” that can turn on and off fluorescence inside and outside cells

*1: Generic name of non-linear optical phenomena caused by interaction with a strong light and medium, represented by optical harmonic generation emitting light with a frequency that is an integer multiple of that applied

What should be investigated?

     Using compounds for biological imaging is not easy. Research objectives are critical. Specifically, chemists who are interested in the functionality and reactivity of labeled molecules and researchers in medical and biological fields, who recognize the usefulness of labeled molecules, should plan joint research beneficial to both parties. This is indispensable for successful joint research. The unit members have established a partnership over a long time. Based on this, we are trying to develop novel biological imaging dyes and biological imaging techniques at Tsukuba.

Social contributions and achievements
● Development of Tsukuba-green
● Development of dyes for second harmonic generation imaging
● Function as the core for the exchange of researchers from different fields

(Interviewed on June 6, 2013)


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