New Instrument Allows for Measuring Nanoparticles

A new instrument in the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology’s Microscopy Suite allows researchers to measure the size and concentration of incredibly small particles.

A new instrument in the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology’s Microscopy Suite allows researchers to measure the size and concentration of incredibly small particles.

A nanoparticle measured by the NanoSight NS300.
A nanoparticle measured by the NanoSight NS300. Image courtesy of Svyatoslav Dvoretskiy.

The Beckman Institute purchased the Malvern Panalytical NanoSight NS300 in the summer of 2018. Several Beckman faculty members and researchers recommended the purchase, said Leilei Yin, a senior microscopist at the Beckman Institute.

The NanoSight uses Nanoparticle Tracking Analysis, or NTA, which takes advantage of the properties of both light scattering and Brownian motion to measure the size and concentration of nanoparticles that are suspended in liquid. Nanoparticles are microscopic particles that are less than 100 nanometers.

The NanoSight takes video of the nanoparticles and tracks them over time, and allows researchers to quickly and easily study samples from experimental and control groups. It’s easier to use and provides more information than other instruments, and samples the machine analyzes can be reused for further work.

Associate Professor Marni Boppart of the Department of Kinesiology and Community Health in the College of Applied Health Sciences, is the leader of Beckman’s Extracellular Vesicle Imaging and Therapy Group (EVIT). She said members of her group recommended the NanoSight instrument after noticing a need to verify the size and concentration of extracellular vesicles in different tissues.

Extracellular vesicles (EVs) are small structures surrounded by membranes released by cells, and they include both microvesicles and exosomes. They represent an important mechanism for cellular communication, yet an understanding of extracellular vesicle biosynthesis, detection, and delivery is just starting to emerge.

The Beckman group is working to bring together campus partners investigating EVs in the context of both disease and health. One way they’re doing so: Hosting an April 19 workshop to bring together researchers from all over campus.

The NanoSight allows members of EVIT to verify different types of vesicles, Boppart said, adding that it adds credibility to their research.

Graduate student Svyatoslav Dvoretskiy has used the NanoSight to isolate vesicles from blood and other types of tissues. He recently presented his work at the Advances in Skeletal Muscle Biology in Health and Disease conference. The instrument can also be used to verify vesicles in urine, plasma, and more.

Boppart said the tool, purchased with funding from the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation, helps her research group develop an exosome-based strategy to improve recovery of musculoskeletal tissue following injury and lack of use. This is the focus of her work, currently funded by the National Institutes of Health.

“Information from the NanoSight will help us to successfully achieve this goal, as well as provide justification for further funded studies,” she said. “Our ultimate goal is to translate our work into a product that can be integrated into the clinic.”

Also using the instrument: students working with faculty members Wawrzyniec Dobrucki of the Department of Bioengieering; Stephen Boppart of the Department of Electrical and Computer Enginering, the Department of Bioengineering, and the Carle Illinois College of Medicine; and Cecilia Leal of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. It is used in research on cancer and biomarkers, which are measurable indicators of disease or cancer. Researchers from Carle Foundation Hospital also have used the instrument, he said.