The innovation engine for new materials

Bezawit Sumner

2013 PREM Intern


Jackson State University


Biology-Master of Science


Ramsey N. Majzoub

Faculty Sponsor(s): 

Cyrus R. Safinya

Faculty Sponsor's Department(s): 

Materials Research Laboratory

Project Title: 

Investigating Intracellular Structure Using X-ray Scattering

Project Description: 

Nanoparticle based drug delivery is an emerging field with the potential to treat various diseases and disorders. Currently, microscopy is commonly used to directly to observe the behavior of intracellular nanoparticles. However X- ray diffraction (XRD) is an ideal technique for monitoring sub nanometer structural changes in nanoparticles. In order to properly study intracellular nanoparticles using XRD, a careful investigation of which subcellular structures give rise to X-ray scattering is essential. The main focus of this project is to investigate which cytoskeletal elements can give rise to x-ray scattering. The two main cytoskeletal elements, which were investigated, are actin and microtubules. Actin is a protein with a diameter of about 7nm that polymerizes to form cytoskeletal filaments. Actin’s main function is cell structure, as well as cell division and muscle contraction. Microtubules are another major component of the cell and play a major role in trafficking as well as cell division. In this project, we investigate if it is possible to study intracellular actin or microtubules by using X-ray scattering. In order to test whether actin or microtubules are in fact scattering X-rays we will observe the effects of disruptive drugs, which can selectively inhibit the polymerization of microtubules or actin. We present results from two cell lines, human skin cancer melanoma cells (M-21) and Mouse Fibroblast cells (L-cells). Cells treated with cytoskeletal inhibitors showed similar x-ray scattering as the control group, suggesting that cytoskeletal structures are not giving rise to x-ray scattering.