Cholesterol hides in cells and can lead to various health issues including obesity, diabetes and even lead to heart conditions. A new high speed spectroscopy technique has been developed that can pinpoint those cells that store cholesterol. A hyperspectral-stimulated Raman-scattering microscopy device, developed by Purdue University researchers, maps the lipid metabolism in the cells.Cholesterol

Prior to the development of this technique, the cells would have to be processed before lab technicians could analyze them and this meant the inability to study them as living cells. Conventional Raman microscopes had limitations in that they could take hours to produce results. The benefits of the new method and microscope allow technicians to investigate living specimens at high speeds. To date the technology has been used on live animals.

Researchers say the advantage to being able to observe, in real time, is the ability to follow a particular cell over time to track its unique health. The microscope examines the “vibrational fingerprints” of the molecule. The benefit of this examination technique is that it allows for the measuring of the storage of cholesterol, the type of lipid and the desaturation and oxidation of lipids; these measures let technicians know whether the patients’ cells can effectively utilize insulin.

The technique gives researchers the ability to answer the important questions of how “lipid stores change” as individuals age and how they change in relation to a patients’ diet.

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