Studying cells from the perspective of a physicist might sound a little confusing for many biologists. However, the laws of physics apply to all things — including biological systems — and provide fundamental methods and concepts for understanding the molecular and cellular aspects of life.
The bridging of physics and biology has led to many great achievements and resulted in the discipline known as biophysics. The elucidation of the structure of vital biomolecules such as DNA and proteins, the understanding of the diffusion of molecules across the cell membrane and the mechanisms of intracellular transport were all possible thanks to the use of biophysical methods.
So how can biophysical tools give biologists a new perspective on challenging biological questions? By taking advantage of one thing physics does very well: quantifying physical parameters.
What does MST have to offer to biology?
MicroScale Thermophoresis (MST) is a biophysical technology that can help scientists understand how biological systems work by characterizing molecular interactions — specifically by quantifying the strength of the affinity between interacting molecules.
By characterizing binding affinity, MST enables researchers to uncover molecules involved in cellular processes and the changes that are triggered by the interaction between them. This information, in turn, allows researchers to find ways to control these processes.
In the context of protein characterization, MST empowers researchers to characterize receptor-binding properties, measure interactions between antigen and antibodies, and even investigate enzyme inhibition. This information, in turn, allows researchers to find ways to control these processes.
What are some of the contributions of MST to biology?
Binding affinity represents the foundation of molecular recognition and communication. In this sense, MST has made major contributions in cell biology, immunology, neurobiology, and microbiology.
Here are some examples of how MST has impacted biology:
- Improved cell signaling research
- Sped up the understanding of tumor immunology
- Revealed new mechanisms of gene regulation
- Helped the understanding of bacterial ABC transporters
- Assisted in the development of candidate drugs that induce apoptosis in cancer cells