A groundbreaking study led by Prof. Yossi Paltiel at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, in collaboration with groups from HUJI, Weizmann, and IST Austria, has made a remarkable discovery. Contrary to long-held beliefs, nuclear spin does influence biological processes. By focusing on stable oxygen isotopes (16O, 17O, 18O), the research team unveiled the significant impact of nuclear spin on oxygen dynamics in chiral environments, particularly during its transport.
The implications of these findings are immense, offering exciting prospects in biotechnology and quantum biology. Controlled isotope separation could be revolutionized, and the world of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) technology might witness groundbreaking advancements. Prof. Paltiel expressed immense excitement about the potential applications that could emerge from manipulating nuclear spin, potentially unlocking new opportunities in NMR and isotopic fractionation processes.
The study's publication in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) adds credibility to these remarkable findings, signifying a major step forward in our understanding of biological processes and their connection to nuclear spin. This newfound knowledge paves the way for exciting future developments in various scientific fields.
The story in detail
Scientists have delved into the fascinating realm of tiny particles within living organisms, uncovering intriguing quantum effects that impact biological processes. Bird navigation and efficient sunlight utilization in plants are just some instances where quantum effects play a role, aiding creatures in their journeys and harnessing energy efficiently.
This connection between particles and living beings may trace back billions of years to the origin of life when molecules with a special shape known as chirality emerged. Chirality is crucial, as only molecules with the right shape can perform their vital functions in living organisms.
The intriguing link between chirality and quantum mechanics was discovered in “spin,” a minute magnetic property. Chiral molecules interact differently with particles based on their spin, giving rise to Chiral Induced Spin Selectivity (CISS).
Initially observed in tiny particles like electrons, the researchers aimed to explore if spin also influences larger particles such as ions and molecules involved in biological transport. By conducting experiments with water particles possessing different spins, they found that spin significantly affects water behavior in cells. It enters at varying speeds and reacts uniquely when chiral molecules are in the picture.
This study underscores the pivotal role of spin in life processes, offering opportunities to comprehend and control spin's impact on living organisms. Such understanding could yield significant breakthroughs in medical imaging and innovative approaches to treating illnesses.
A collaborative effort among scientists from diverse institutions, including the Institute of Earth Sciences and Life Sciences in Hebrew and the Weizmann Institute, led the research. The Department of Applied Physics at Hebrew University played a pivotal role in spearheading the study.
Source: Hebrew University of Jerusalem