Navigation Links
Listening to cells: Scientists probe human cells with high-frequency sound

Philadelphia, Pa. Sound waves are widely used in medical imaging, such as when doctors take an ultrasound of a developing fetus. Now scientists have developed a way to use sound to probe tissue on a much tinier scale. Researchers from the University of Bordeaux in France deployed high-frequency sound waves to test the stiffness and viscosity of the nuclei of individual human cells. The scientists predict that the probe could eventually help answer questions such as how cells adhere to medical implants and why healthy cells turn cancerous.

"We have developed a new non-contact, non-invasive tool to measure the mechanical properties of cells at the sub-cell scale," says Bertrand Audoin, a professor in the mechanics laboratory at the University of Bordeaux. "This can be useful to follow cell activity or identify cell disease." The work will be presented at the 57th Annual Meeting of the Biophysical Society (BPS), held Feb. 2-6, 2013, in Philadelphia, Pa.

The technique that the research team used, called picosecond ultrasonics, was initially applied in the electronics industry in the mid-1980s as a way to measure the thickness of semiconductor chip layers. Audoin and his colleagues, in collaboration with a research group in biomaterials led by Marie-Christine Durrieu from the Institute of Chemistry & Biology of Membranes & Nano-objects at Bordeaux University, adapted picosecond ultrasonics to study living cells. They grew cells on a metal plate and then flashed the cell-metal interface with an ultra-short laser pulse to generate high-frequency sound waves. Another laser measured how the sound pulse propagated through the cells, giving the scientists clues about the mechanical properties of the individual cell components.

"The higher the frequency of sound you create, the smaller the wavelength, which means the smaller the objects you can probe" says Audoin. "We use gigahertz waves, so we can probe objects on the order of a hundred nanometers." For comparison, a cell's nucleus is about 10,000 nanometers wide.

The team faced challenges in applying picosecond ultrasonics to study biological systems. One challenge was the fluid-like material properties of the cell. "The light scattering process we use to detect the mechanical properties of the cell is much weaker than for solids," says Audoin. "We had to improve the signal to noise ratio without using a high-powered laser that would damage the cell." The team also faced the challenge of natural cell variation. "If you probe silicon, you do it once and it's finished," says Audoin. "If you probe the nucleus you have to do it hundreds of times and look at the statistics."

The team developed methods to overcome these challenges by testing their techniques on polymer capsules and plant cells before moving on to human cells. In the coming years the team envisions studying cancer cells with sound. "A cancerous tissue is stiffer than a healthy tissue," notes Audoin. "If you can measure the rigidity of the cells while you provide different drugs, you can test if you are able to stop the cancer at the cell scale."


Contact: Ellen R. Weiss
American Institute of Physics

Related biology news :

1. From the Amazon rainforest to human body cells: Quantifying stability
2. Programming cells: The importance of the envelope
3. Stanford scientists develop gene therapy approach to grow blood vessels in ischemic limbs
4. Queens scientists seek vaccine for Pseudomonas infection
5. Scientists produce eye structures from human blood-derived stem cells
6. American Society of Plant Biologists honors early career women scientists
7. Brandeis scientists win prestigious prize for circadian rhythms research
8. Scientists discover new method of proton transfer
9. Salk scientists open new window into how cancers override cellular growth controls
10. - Now Featuring Bespoke Pages for China’s Life Scientists
11. Scientists win $2 million to study new pathway in development and maintenance of lymphoma
Post Your Comments:
(Date:10/29/2015)... Calif. , Oct. 29, 2015  The J. ... new report titled, "DNA Synthesis and Biosecurity: Lessons Learned ... the Department of Health and Human Services guidance for ... in 2010. --> ... it also has the potential to pose unique biosecurity ...
(Date:10/29/2015)... , Oct. 29, 2015  Connected health pioneer, ... driving the explosion of technology-enabled health and wellness, and ... new book, The Internet of Healthy Things ... sensors or smartphones even existed, Dr. Kvedar, vice president, ... of health care delivery, moving care from the hospital ...
(Date:10/27/2015)... , Oct. 27, 2015 In the present ... of concern for various industry verticals such as banking, ... to the growing demand for secure & simplified access ... ,sectors, such as hacking of bank accounts, misuse of ... equipment such as PC,s, laptops, and smartphones are expected ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:12/1/2015)... SAN DIEGO , Dec. 1, 2015 /PRNewswire/ ... that uses allogeneic stem cells for cardiovascular indications, ... clinical trial protocol based on recommendations from a ... leaders and its Scientific Advisory Board members ... boards analyzed preliminary Phase IIa safety and efficacy ...
(Date:12/1/2015)... Cepheid (Nasdaq: CPHD ) today announced ... Jaffray Healthcare Conference in New York City ... its outlook for the fourth quarter of 2015 and ... longer term business model expectations. John Bishop ... to be the fastest growing company of the major ...
(Date:11/30/2015)... ... 30, 2015 , ... Global Stem Cells Group ... from Central America and abroad for the first Iberoamerican Convention on Aesthetic Medicine, ... 2016. Testart will present and discuss new trends in anti-aging stem cell treatments, ...
(Date:11/30/2015)... MONTREAL , Dec. 1, 2015 /PRNewswire/ - BioAmber Inc. (NYSE: ... that it has joined the American Business Act on Climate ... economy that are standing with the Obama Administration to demonstrate ... for a strong outcome to the COP21 Paris ... . --> Sarnia, Canada . ...
Breaking Biology Technology: