Now a new study fills in a crucial knowledge gap. For the first time, researchers have measured the thermal conductivity—the rate at which heat is conducted—inside human cells. In a paper published on Friday in Science Advances, scientists used miniscule diamond-based sensors that simultaneously release and measure heat to demonstrate that heat dissipates in cells much more slowly than they previously believed. “That was very surprising for us and others in the field,” says Madoka Suzuki, a biophysicist at Osaka University in Japan and a co-author of the paper. Because the fluid in cells is water-based, scientists have generally assumed it carries heat much like water does. Instead heat dissipates in cells about five times more slowly—a speed more akin to the way it dissipates in oil. Until now “nobody knew this basic property of living cells,” Suzuki says. “Without that value, we cannot model how cellular temperature changes.”
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