A new optical microscopy technique that is able to unravel – in real time – the role of “oxidative stress” in injured and healthy nervous systems has been developed by scientists at the University of Munich and Ludwig-Maximilians University, both in German.

In the human body, reactive oxygen species are important to the intracellular signaling molecules, but the way they act and move is complex at best. Researchers explain that in low concentrations these reactive oxygen species regulate key cellular function and behavior. In high concentrations they cause oxidative stress and this can damage membranes, DNA and organs. To understand how these species work and to determine ways to record the oxidation states of the individual mitochondria, an optical microscopy technique has developed. mitochondriaThe science and the motivation behind the new technology was explained by one of the scientists who was quoted as saying, “Redox signals have important physiological functions, but can also cause damage, for example when present in high concentrations around immune cells.” The scientists, as part of the study, researched evidence that the oxidative damage of mitochondria could contribute and lead to inflammatory diseases including multiple sclerosis.

The scientists in the study, used “redox-sensitive variants of the green fluorescent protein (GFP) as visualization tools.” This allowed them to combine the dyes with biosensors and that allowed them to monitor redux signals along with mitochondrial calcium currents and monitor the changes in electrical potential.

It was discovered that the wave of oxidation of the mitochondria – that started at the site of the nerve damage – was passed through the fiber and an influx of calcium added to the mitochondria’s functional damage.

One of the most startling outcome was that the scientists found that “spontaneous contractions of mitochondria that are accompanied by a rapid shift in the redox state of the organelle” lead to irreversible damage to the nerve if the contractions are prolonged.

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