"Quantum-assisted sensing" achieves the first quantum-assisted nano-imaging of living organisms

The US National Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's "Quantum Assisted Sensing and Readability" (QuASAR) project is seeking high-definition nanoscale imaging technology while reducing the size of the device and getting rid of temperature limitations.

In science, many important phenomena tend to occur on a micro scale that is much smaller than the human eye can distinguish. Medical researchers may have a breakthrough if they can deeply observe the inside of biological cells, but the existing imaging methods cannot meet the sensitivity requirements, or the required working conditions will cause cell death, such as low temperature environments. Recently, with the support of DARPA ’s Quasar project, researchers at Harvard University in the United States are demonstrating a method of magnetic structure imaging inside biological cells. The equipment used can be operated at normal temperature and pressure, and the display scale can be reduced to 400 nanometers, the size of two measles viruses.

The current research progress is that the research of the Harvard QuASAR team has been published in the journal Nature, called "Optical Magnetic Imaging of Active Cells." In essence, the researchers used a defective diamond called the nitrogen-hole (NV) color center as a high-precision magnetic field probe that can detect the magnetic field produced by active magnetic bacteria (organisms containing magnetic nanoparticles). Using the NV color center array with specific positions and densities on this diamond chip can determine the magnetic structure of each bacterium and construct a magnetic field image. In principle, this technology can observe the process information inside the cell in detail and in real time, such as how cell death, evolution and division are affected by the disease.

At the same time, related research related to this experiment also includes two independent research groups of the QuASAR project-the University of Stuttgart in Germany and the Almaden Research Center of IBM, which developed a nanometer-scale magnetometer that can make magnetic resonance imaging ( MRI) has sufficient resolution to measure 10,000 protons in a volume of 125 cubic nanometers, which is equivalent to a single protein molecule level. Their research results were published in the January 2013 scientific journal, "Nano-NMR Magnetic Resonance Using Nitrogen-Hole Spin Sensors" and "Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy of 3 Samples (5 nm)." Their research results can be used to: support future drug development by enhancing understanding of protein structure; enhancing details and mapping of three-dimensional biomolecules, simplifying assessment of the effects of inhibitor drugs on viruses; and measuring magnetic fields of radioneurons.

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