With a “crush on modeling,” this chemist is seeking better ways to measure heat in living cells

Dr. Markus Suta will give the first Reaxys “Spotlight on Innovation” webinar on designing remote luminescent thermometers

Markus Suta in lab
Dr. Markus Suta in his lab at Utrecht University, where he works on luminescence thermometry as part of the EU-funded nanoTBtech project. (Photo by Ian Pompermayer Machado)

In science and medicine, it’s crucial to be able to measure temperature accurately in real time, but traditional thermometers have their limitations. Increasingly, scientists and clinicians need to be able to measure temperatures remotely – for example, in monitoring small temperature changes in cells to detect tumors or measuring the heat being used to destroy them.

One way to do that is to inject nanoparticles that react to local temperatures in the cell by emiting light after “excitation,” explained Dr. Markus Suta, who was a Reaxys PhD Prize finalist in 2017. Many of these nanoparticles contain so-called rare earth elements at the bottom of the periodic table, which can emit intensive light throughout the visible and infrared range, he said.

That need for precision is at the heart of Markus’s research – from the predictive models he makes and the experiments he conducts to test them to the way he searches for related literature.

As a postdoc in the research group of Prof. Andries Meijerink of Utrecht University, he’s working in the burgeoning field of luminescence thermometry as part of the EU-funded nanoTBtech project, which is coordinated by Prof. Dr. Luís Carlos of the University of Aveiro, a pioneer in the field. Markus’s research involves analyzing and testing the boundaries of established models of thermometers as well as developing new ones through modeling and experimentation. The goal: to design more accurate and user-friendly nanothermometers.

“The research I’m doing right now combines modelling and predictions with experimental validation,” he explained:

My supervisor is a highly knowledgeable leader in the field of luminescence – (using) light-emitting materials for all kinds of applications. And although my background is in experimental and synthetic chemistry, I’ve always had a crush on modeling.

In his upcoming Reaxys “Spotlight on Innovation” webinar, Markus will talk about his research in luminescence thermometry and share search tips for other chemistry researchers.

Although the field of luminescence thermometry is just over 10 years old, “the stage it is at right now is still quite fresh,” Markus pointed out. Because temperature has long been one of the most frequently measured quantities, “this new methodology has to withstand many tests to be competitive to other well established methodologies,” even though they are non-remote.

As part of this project, Markus is focusing on using hyperthermia for tumor therapy:

That means that you combine several properties in nanoparticles that you inject into the body (to target) the tumor. And if you then apply, for instance, a magnet from outside, the tumor cells heat up so much that they basically die within the body.

In order to have full control over this therapy, it's good to have a way to measure the temperature while doing that treatment. One way to do that is to combine a heater within the nanoparticle together with some luminescent material – or more particularly, with some rare earth ions whose emitted light intensity depends on the surrounding temperature – so you can remotely control or detect temperatures within the tumor cells.

Precision in search

To find the latest research related to his work, Markus’s go-to tool is Reaxys, a database solution that helps chemistry researchers find relevant literature, patents, compound properties and reaction data. Compared to using other search engines for scholarly literature, he said, Reaxys helps him find relevant papers much more quickly, saving him from having to filter long lists of results. That’s crucial when he’s working in the lab and has just 10 minutes between measurements:

If I start by googling a compound combined with a query on thermometry, I’ll end up with dozens of papers by all kinds of different authors, and I’ll have to carefully think, ‘OK, which of these papers has exactly the content I’m looking for?’ With Reaxys, I quickly get to the authors I know; it’s way more specific, and it doesn’t show me essentially everything in the field.

Watch the webinar

Brighttalk webinar Markus Suta

Dr. Markus Suta’s webinar will be on Thursday, October 24, at 2pm GMT, 3pm CET, or 9am EST. It’s 60 minutes long and will be available afterwards on demand.

Register for free

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