Events / Cell Biology & Physiology Seminar Series (VIRTUAL)

Cell Biology & Physiology Seminar Series (VIRTUAL)

Aldona Mzyk, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Fellow
Technical University of Denmark, Copenhagen, Denmark
University Medical Center Groningen, Groningen, the Netherlands

Attendees can join via Zoom webinar link:
Meeting ID: 913 383 257 51
Passcode:  006384

Aldona Mzyk, Ph.D.

“Nanodiamond-based quantum sensing in cell biology, drug screening and clinical diagnostics”

Sparkling, hard and durable these are some of the properties commonly associated with diamonds. These qualities have made them desirable within our society for a centuries. In research, the unique properties of diamonds have drawn in many enthusiasts. Particularly, nanodiamonds with crystal lattice defects such as the negatively charged nitrogen-vacancy (NV) centers, which have emerged as a powerful and versatile quantum sensors for diverse quantities. This talk focuses on a specific way to use quantum-based sensing properties of nanodiamond with ensembles of NV centers, a technique called relaxometry (or T1). The key features of the NV center are its optically detectable and controllable spin states. In other words, the NV allows the conversion of magnetic noise into optical signals. Optical signals provide nanoscale resolution and unprecedented sensitivity as the detectability is far greater than that of direct magnetic noise detection. Analogously to T1 measurements in conventional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), relaxometry allows the detection of different concentrations of paramagnetic species. However, relaxometry allows very local measurements, the detected signals are from nanoscale voxels around the NV center. Apart from detecting magnetic signals, responsive coatings can be applied to modify surface of nanodiamonds, which render T1 sensitive to other parameters as pH, temperature or electric fields.

Together with my colleagues from the UMCG in the Netherlands (group of prof. Romana Schirhagl) we were the first researchers to apply relaxometry to understand the multiple functions of free radicals (FR) in cell biology. FRs are omnipresent and one of the key players in the ageing process on a molecular level. Despite their relevance, information about FRs is sparse and therefore their use as clinical biomarkers is severely limited. Since FRs are short lived and reactive, it is challenging to detect them with the state of the art methodology. So far, I have proved that the nanodiamonds and T1 relaxometry technique could be used for the real-time monitoring of changes in the concentration of free radicals at the level of single human cells, yeasts and bacterial biofilm. In my talk I will address a few exciting examples of biological processes and their clinical relevance where the role of free radicals was explored with T1 relaxometry. In one of the projects, I have been investigating FRs generation in samples from arthritis patients. Arthritis is a common disease which is characterized by a decline of cartilage in joints. It can lead to disabilities and a diminished quality of life. The two most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis (OA) where cartilage damage occurs in degenerative diseases and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) where the decline occurs during chronic inflammation of joints. I have found significant differences in the level of free radicals in RA and OA synovial fluids and derived cells. The proof-of-concept experiment has also shown that nanodiamond magnetometry enables real-time efficiency monitoring of anti-inflammatory therapeutics. Apart from the arthritis research, I have shown there is great potential in using nanodiamond magnetometry to investigate a free radical-based theory for male infertility. Herein, the unknown factor was the source of radicals that play a role in the sperm maturation process. The nanodiamond magnetometry allowed me to identify the prominent source of radical generation in sperm maturation and shed light on a role of progesterone.

Finally, with this talk I would like to stimulate discourse on the future of T1 relaxometry. I will give you insight into my further research ambitions and how these will open a new perspective for using nanodiamond-based quantum sensing to explore unknown aspects of oxidative stress in mechanobiology. This is especially important for the design of next generation biomaterials and drug delivery systems for modulation of immune responses in various organs.