Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Measuring living cells' mechanical properties: Technology could diagnose human disease, shed light on biological processes

Date:
December 7, 2011
Source:
Purdue University
Summary:
Researchers are making progress in developing a system that measures the mechanical properties of living cells, a technology that could be used to diagnose human disease and better understand biological processes.

This artist's conception depicts the use of an atomic force microscope to study the mechanical properties of cells, an innovation that might result in a new way to diagnose disease and study biological processes. Here, three types of cells are studied using the instrument: a rat fibroblast is the long slender cell in the center, an E coli bacterium is at the top right and a human red blood cell is at the lower left. The colored portions show the benefit of the new technique, representing the mechanical properties of the cells, whereas the gray portions represent what was possible using a conventional approach.
Credit: Purdue University image/Alexander Cartagena

Researchers are making progress in developing a system that measures the mechanical properties of living cells, a technology that could be used to diagnose human disease and better understand biological processes.

The team used an instrument called an atomic force microscope to study three distinctly different types of cells to demonstrate the method's potentially broad applications, said Arvind Raman, a Purdue University professor of mechanical engineering.

For example, the technique could be used to study how cells adhere to tissues, which is critical for many disease and biological processes; how cells move and change shape; how cancer cells evolve during metastasis; and how cells react to mechanical stimuli needed to stimulate production of vital proteins. The technique could be used to study the mechanical properties of cells under the influence of antibiotics and drugs that suppress cancer to learn more about the mechanisms involved.

Findings have been posted online in the journal Nature Nanotechnology and will appear in the December print issue. The work involves researchers from Purdue and the University of Oxford.

"There's been a growing realization of the role of mechanics in cell biology and indeed a lot of effort in building models to explain how cells feel, respond and communicate mechanically both in health and disease," said Sonia Contera, a paper co-author and director of the Oxford Martin Programme on Nanotechnology and an academic fellow at Oxford physics. "With this paper, we provide a tool to start addressing some of these questions quantitatively: This is a big step."

An atomic force microscope uses a tiny vibrating probe to yield information about materials and surfaces on the scale of nanometers, or billionths of a meter. Because the instrument enables scientists to "see" objects far smaller than possible using light microscopes, it could be ideal for "mapping" the mechanical properties of the tiniest cellular structures.

"The maps identify the mechanical properties of different parts of a cell, whether they are soft or rigid or squishy," said Raman, who is working with doctoral student Alexander Cartagena and other researchers. "The key point is that now we can do it at high resolution and higher speed than conventional techniques."

The high-speed capability makes it possible to watch living cells and observe biological processes in real time. Such a technique offers the hope of developing a "mechanobiology-based" assay to complement standard biochemical assays.

"The atomic force microscope is the only tool that allows you to map the mechanical properties -- take a photograph, if you will -- of the mechanical properties of a live cell," Raman said.

However, existing techniques for mapping these properties using the atomic force microscope are either too slow or don't have high enough resolution.

"This innovation overcomes those limitations, mostly through improvements in signal processing," Raman said. "You don't need new equipment, so it's an economical way to bump up pixels per minute and get quantitative information. Most importantly, we applied the technique to three very different kinds of cells: bacteria, human red blood cells and rat fibroblasts. This demonstrates its potential broad utility in medicine and research."

The technique is nearly five times faster than standard atomic force microscope techniques.

The Nature Nanotechnology paper was written by Raman; Cartagena; Sonia Trigueros, a Senior Research Fellow in the Oxford Martin Programme on Nanotechnology; Oxford doctoral student Amadeus Stevenson; Purdue instructor Monica Susilo; Eric Nauman, an associate professor of mechanical engineering; and Contera.

The National Science Foundation and Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council of the U.K. funded the research.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Purdue University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. A. Raman, S. Trigueros, A. Cartagena, A. P. Z. Stevenson, M. Susilo, E. Nauman, S. Antoranz Contera. Mapping nanomechanical properties of live cells using multi-harmonic atomic force microscopy. Nature Nanotechnology, 2011; DOI: 10.1038/nnano.2011.186

Cite This Page:

Purdue University. "Measuring living cells' mechanical properties: Technology could diagnose human disease, shed light on biological processes." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 December 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111121194041.htm>.
Purdue University. (2011, December 7). Measuring living cells' mechanical properties: Technology could diagnose human disease, shed light on biological processes. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111121194041.htm
Purdue University. "Measuring living cells' mechanical properties: Technology could diagnose human disease, shed light on biological processes." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111121194041.htm (accessed July 23, 2014).

Share This




More Matter & Energy News

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Robot Parking Valet Creates Stress-Free Travel

Robot Parking Valet Creates Stress-Free Travel

AP (July 23, 2014) 'Ray' the robotic parking valet at Dusseldorf Airport in Germany lets travelers to avoid the hassle of finding a parking spot before heading to the check-in desk. (July 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Boeing Ups Outlook on 52% Profit Jump

Boeing Ups Outlook on 52% Profit Jump

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 23, 2014) Commercial aircraft deliveries rose seven percent at Boeing, prompting the aerospace company to boost full-year profit guidance- though quarterly revenues missed analyst estimates. Bobbi Rebell reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Europe's Car Market on the Rebound?

Europe's Car Market on the Rebound?

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 23, 2014) Daimler kicks off a round of second-quarter earnings results from Europe's top carmakers with a healthy set of numbers - prompting hopes that stronger sales in Europe will counter weakness in emerging markets. Hayley Platt reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
9/11 Commission Members Warn of Terror "fatigue" Among American Public

9/11 Commission Members Warn of Terror "fatigue" Among American Public

Reuters - US Online Video (July 22, 2014) Ten years after releasing its initial report, members of the 9/11 Commission warn of the "waning sense of urgency" in combating terrorists attacks. Mana Rabiee reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins