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'Too Hard for Science?'

At the Scientific American guest blog, Charles Choi is asking researchers for their thoughts on what they would like to explore but don't think can be investigated today. Jeanne Garbarino, a postdoc in the Laboratory of Biochemical Genetics and Metabolism at Rockefeller University was the first to respond to Choi's request. Garbarino, who studies how cholesterol is transported within cells, says she wishes she could "determine the exact contribution for each transport mechanism of cholesterol when it comes to delivering cholesterol to areas within the cell." Understanding the metabolism of cholesterol would be helpful in developing new treatments or preventive measures, but following the molecule as it goes inside a cell is difficult. It would be hard to distinguish the cholesterol molecule from the other molecules inside the cell, Choi says, and adding a tag to the cholesterol molecule to follow it wouldn't work either because of its structure. Garbarino says improved instrumentation in the future, like more sensitive cameras and microscopes as well as the development of quantum dot technology for labeling single molecules, could help solve this problem. "However," she tells Choi, "I doubt we will ever be able to fully tease out every aspect of intracellular cholesterol transport, at least in our lifetimes."