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TECHNOLOGY/ Infrared nanoscopes to fight against Alzheimer’s

One of the latest projects in medical research involves the use of nanoscopes, microscopes able to show the chemistry and structure of things as small as viruses.

(Fotolia) (Fotolia)

The image of the medicine researcher bent over his microscope is still valid and effective, but other images of the biosciences in the unbridled nanoworld , where the measurement of reference is a billionth of a meter, must be added to it. Nanoscopes are increasingly discussed and one of the goals of the latest project in this direction is nothing less than an advance in research on Alzheimer's disease.

A new project, initiated under the “Nanosciences, Nanotechnologies, Materials and new Production Technologies” program of the EU, is the LANIR Project (LAbel-free Nanoscopy using Infra-Red) that brings together researchers from 11 partner institutions scattered among Ireland, Italy, Romania, France, Germany and Belgium, both small and medium enterprises and academic partners.

The characteristic feature of this adventure is the use of infrared radiation (IR), specifically infrared nanoscopy (IRN), a technique based on infrared absorption spectroscopy (IRAS), which precisely measures the IR absorption in a material by recording the infrared light reflected from the sample or transmitted through it. When radiation has a wavelength of incident IR which corresponds to the specific vibrational frequency of the chemical bonds in the molecules of the materials examined, a phenomenon of resonance occurs and the infrared absorption increases considerably. IR spectroscopy can thus reveal the characteristic features of chemical structures and molecular species.

The LANIR Project team will develop an IRN nanoscopic technique that will build on advanced laser techniques and optical space-time modeling. Using the technique of stimulating and testing a sample, the chemical fingerprints of a sample can then be displayed point by point with a resolution on the order of nanometers. It will be thus possible to "see" details up to 70 nanometers in lateral dimension, a measure equivalent to the size of a virus. The LANIR prototype will allow the direct imaging of the chemistry and structure of “hidden”, very small, characteristics, without having to destroy the surface of the cell or of the material.