If you throw a rubber balloon filled with water against a wall, it will spread out and deform on impact, while the same balloon filled with honey, which is more viscous, will deform much less. If the balloon's elastic rubber was stiffer, an even smaller change in shape would be observed.
By simply analyzing how much a balloon changes shape upon hitting a wall, you can uncover information about its physical properties.
Although cells are not simple sacks of fluid, they also contain viscous and elastic properties related to the membranes that surround them; their internal structural elements, such as organelles; and the packed DNA arrangement in their nuclei. Because variations in these properties can provide information about cells' state of activity and can be indicative of diseases such as cancer, they are important to measure.
UCLA bioengineering researchers have taken advantage of cells' physical properties to develop a new instrument that slams cells against a wall of fluid and quickly analyzes the physical response, allowing for the identification of cancer and other cell states without expensive chemical tags.
The instrument, called a deformability cytometer, was developed by UCLA biomedical engineering doctoral students Daniel Gossett and Henry Tse and assistant professor of bioengineering Dino Di Carlo. It consists of a miniaturized microfluidic chip that sequentially aligns cells so that they hit a wall of fluid at rates of thousands of cells per second. A specialized camera captures microscopic images of these cells at a rate of 140,000 pictures per second, and these images are then automatically analyzed by custom software to extract information about the cells' physical properties.
Other researchers had previously discovered that the physical properties of cells could provide useful information about cell health, but previous techniques had been confined to academic research labs because measuring th
|Contact: Wileen Wong Kromhout|
University of California - Los Angeles