Making the Cut: Probing Enzyme Activity with Nanosensors

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Ava Soleimany, Jesse Kirkpatrick, Susan Su, Jaideep Dudani, Qian Zhong, Ahmet Bekdemir, Sangeeta Bhatia

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Ava Soleimany, Jesse Kirkpatrick, Susan Su, Jaideep Dudani, Qian Zhong, Ahmet Bekdemir, Sangeeta Bhatia
Koch Institute at MIT

In order to grow or spread, cancer cells break down surrounding tissue using specialized enzymes called proteases. The Bhatia Lab designs tiny sensors to measure protease activity in highly specific locations. This image shows the probes (magenta) homed in on epithelial cells (green) in the colon, where proteases are hard at work.

Turning this technology on tumors will provide clinicians with a highly sensitive tool to detect cancer cells and assess their response to treatment. As a diagnostic platform, these nanosensors offer new strategies for visualizing the biology of disease.

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Ava Soleimany and Jesse Kirkpatrick share the story behind their winning image.