Researchers at Purdue University (West Lafayette, IN, USA) have married two biological imaging technologies, creating a new way to learn how cells metastasize or proliferate, forming a cancerous tumor.
An atomic force microscope (AFM) uses a tiny vibrating probe called a cantilever to yield information about materials and surfaces on the scale of nanometers. The instrument enables scientists to study molecules, cell membranes and other biological structures.
However, the AFM does not provide information about the biological and chemical properties of cells. So the researchers fabricated a metal microcoil on the AFM cantilever. When an electrical current is passed though the coil, it exchanges electromagnetic radiation with protons in molecules within the cell, inducing another current in the coil, which is detected.
Such an advance makes it possible to simultaneously study the mechanical and biochemical behavior of cells, which could provide new insights into disease processes, according to biomedical engineering postdoctoral fellow Charilaos Mousoulis.
A prototype of the system was described in a research paper entitled "Atomic force microscopy-coupled microcoils for cellular-scale nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy" that appeared online April 11 in Applied Physics Letters.
The paper was co-authored by Mousoulis, research scientist Teimour Maleki, Babak Ziaie, a professor of electrical and computer engineering and Corey Neu, an assistant professor in Purdue University's Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering.
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-- Dave Wilson, Senior Editor, Vision Systems Design