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Heavy Hydrogen: Replacing Hydrogen Atom Improves Detection Ability

Heavy Hydrogen: Replacing Hydrogen Atom Improves Detection Abili

By swapping out one specific hydrogen atom for an isotope twice as heavy, researchers have increased the shelf life and detection ability of fluorescent probes that are essential to studying a variety of inflammatory diseases, including cancer and atherosclerosis. The probes detect and measure reactive oxygen species, which play an important role in disease processes.

Associate professor Niren Murthy and postdoctoral fellow Kousik Kundu, both of the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University, have increased the shelf life and detection ability of fluorescent probes that are essential to studying a variety of inflammatory diseases, including cancer and atherosclerosis.

"By replacing a hydrogen atom with a deuterium atom during the synthesis of several fluorescent probes, we increased the stability and shelf life of the dyes, and also improved their ability to detect smaller concentrations of reactive oxygen species," said Niren Murthy, associate professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University.

Deuterium is an isotope of hydrogen that has a single proton and single neutron in its nucleus. Its atomic weight is therefore twice that of the much more common hydrogen atom, which lacks a neutron.

When Murthy and Coulter Department postdoctoral fellow Kousik Kundu designed and synthesized various fluorescent probes with deuterium instead of hydrogen, the dyes were not as susceptible to spontaneous degradation by air and light as their hydrogen counterparts, which made them significantly more accurate at detecting reactive oxygen species in cells and animals. The researchers studied probes that included dihydroethidium (DHE) - the current "gold standard" for imaging reactive oxygen species - and hydrocyanines.

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Map of Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University

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