Microscopic image of lung surfactant. Ashleigh Steckly, Min Li Tan, Laird Forrest, Prajnaparamita Dhar, University of Kansas.


This image may resemble a trendy textile from a fashion designer's spring collection, but it's actually a microscopic image of lung surfactant, a lipid-protein material that aids in respiration by reducing the amount of energy needed. Using microscopy techniques, the researchers captured a snapshot of the changes that occur (black) when surfactant molecules are stressed by carbon nanoparticles. The scientists found that if inhaled, carbon nanoparticles could influence the function of the main lipid component of surfactant. A likely gateway for nanoparticles to enter the body is through the lungs, so this and future studies may help scientists improve drug delivery methods.

Featured in the March 21, 2013, issue of Biomedical Beat.