May 24, 2010
Pressure testing tiny cell samples
Sucking a small sample into a pipette is a simple technique to discover the mechanical properties of tissue.
A collaboration of French and Canadian researchers have found that sucking a portion of a spherical globule of cells into a tiny pipette provides information about the adhesion between cells and the elastic properties of the tissue. The method is a novel approach for the study of the structural properties of tissues, and should offer insights into processes such as embryonic development, tissue growth and cancer. A paper describing the research appears online in Physical Review Letters on May 24.
Conventional techniques for measuring the structural properties of tissues typically involved placing a sample between a pair of plates and observing how the tissue responds to compression. The new pipette technique complements the parallel plate method, as well as allowing researchers to obtain a wider range of measurements. In addition, the pipette approach could potentially allow for measurements to be performed on living tissue in its natural environment.
In a Viewpoint article in the current issue of APS Physics Gabor Forgacs and Ioan Kosztin of the University of Missouri note that interpretations of pipette-based cell measurements are somewhat unclear, in part because relatively few cells from a sample are sucked into the pipette. The technique is also limited to cells that bind together strongly. Nevertheless, pipette measurements offer a novel tool for studying cell development and diseases, as well as potentially aiding researchers involved in tissue engineering for growing artificial organs.
The American Physical Society (www.aps.org) is a non-profit membership organization working to advance and diffuse the knowledge of physics through its outstanding research journals, scientific meetings, and education, outreach, advocacy and international activities. APS represents over 51,000 members, including physicists in academia, national laboratories and industry in the United States and throughout the world. Society offices are located in College Park, MD (Headquarters), Ridge, NY, and Washington, DC.