Biological imaging is about to get a boost in resolution thanks to quantum physics. Yes, we’ve reached the point where biology meets physics at the subatomic level, and researchers are looking for ways to capture it on camera. Life science imaging might never be the same as a result.
Quantum physics studies the behavior of matter and energy at the molecular, atomic, nuclear, and even smaller levels. However, scientists found they can use this to their advantage.
Quantum Light and Biological Imaging
Enzymes are molecules that are responsible for many of the body’s processes. Unfortunately, due to their small size, they are difficult for biologists to study. To get a clear image, high-powered microscopes emit a lot of light. Low light allows too much noise to creep in when scanning at the molecular level. But too much light reduces and can even stop enzyme activity.
Fortunately, a group of researchers recently found that controlled light dispensed one photon at a time, didn’t have the same effect as a flood of light. With the help of quantum physicists, biologists found they could perform accurate measurements without affecting the enzymes’ behavior.
The scientists used their new technique to track changes in the chirality (the ability of a molecule to rotate the polarization of light) of a sucrose solution due to enzymatic activity. Researchers could then calculate the number of molecules of sucrose processed by the enzymes. Quantum light was used in real-time to track enzyme behavior without interfering with it.
Future Benefits for Life Science Imaging
One major benefit of this breakthrough is that both science communities were able to see physicists and biologists collaborate. They accomplished a goal that would be highly unlikely on their own. The Life Sciences community is already rethinking how similar methods could be used to capture images once thought impossible.
The research group expressed further possibilities for what quantum sensors could be capable of accomplishing for biological imaging. Entirely new forms of imaging could be developed for the life sciences. Magnetic field sensing and the detection of gravitational waves may affect biological systems in ways that no one has ever considered before.