Pisa, 8 February 2019. Like a satellite that runs around its planet. But the planet is less than a millionth of a meter, the satellite is the tip of a light beam. And it is not gravity to keep it in orbit, but the signals captured by the “nanoworld”.

Researchers at the Scuola Normale Superiore (SNS), led by Prof. Francesco Cardarelli, go hunting for signals inside the cells, chasing and capturing with light the structures that emit them. The latter have a name in cellular biology, they are the “organelles”, spherical structures (such as nanoscale planets, by fact), which are trafficking within the cell, regulating in the meantime a myriad of fundamental molecular processes. “In a classic way of looking at these organelles – explains Cardarelli – too much time is lost in looking for them within the complex 3D intracellular space. Here, instead, the light is launched in orbit around the point of interest: in other words, the organelle is ‘captured’ and studied closely, without leaving it anymore! ”

A first example of the power of this new strategy has recently been published in the prestigious journal of the American Society of Chemistry