The new software-based tool fits onto a microscope like a pair of goggles and allows a scientist to measure a broad number of physical parameters in the Petri dish while investigating fat cells. They might explore how fat cells change when given insulin, or how they react when treated with new experimental drug compounds. According to the researchers, normally these kinds of questions need to be investigated with intensive pre-clinical and clinical trials — an expensive and time-consuming process.
With the new tool, the researchers state they are able to address these questions at the cellular level — by looking at individual fat cells to see what happens to them under experimental conditions. The tool allows scientists to see and assess quickly what is happening to each cell, and how individual cells change over time. Until now, fat tissues were studied as a whole, with little knowledge as to how cells react one by one. But a look at individual cells gives clues about the toxicity or effectiveness of a treatment almost immediately.
The researchers are now adding other components to the microscope, such as a laser-based scan that can see cell slices in three dimensions. From these slices, they can make a computer model of the actual cell. Once the cell is "inside" the computer, it can be stretched and compressed mechanically via software controls under very specific parameters. This tells how fat cells in different parts of the body react to pressure due to immobility, for example.
Until now the engineered fat cell cultures and software tool have been tested using animal cells, but the researchers plan to do similar studies based on human fat cells.
MEDICA.de; Source: American Friends of Tel Aviv University