Nanosensors on cells show how they communicate in real time

Researchers at at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston have developed a way to slap tiny nanosensors onto the surface of cells to monitor single-cell interactions in real time. The goal is to see how cells talk to one another so scientists can track transplanted cells and develop better drugs, the researchers say.

"We can now monitor how individual cells talk to one another in real-time with unprecedented spatial and temporal resolution," Jeffrey Karp, co-director of the Center for Regenerative Therapeutics at BWH, said in a release. "This allows us to understand signaling between cells and interactions with drugs in great detail that should have broad implications for basic science and drug discovery."

The researchers said they are also especially excited by preliminary data that shows the potential to use this nanoengineering approach to track and monitor the environment surrounding transplanted cells. This kind of real-time monitoring was not possible before, they said.

"This new study takes a significant step toward the goal to eavesdrop in real-time and at high spatial resolution on communications between cells in their native environment, with far-reaching implications for the development of new drugs and diagnostics," Harvard's Ulrich von Andrian, who was not involved in the study, said in the release.

- read more in the release from BWH
- and the abstract in Nature Nanotechnology