Researchers in Jena and Bremen are planning something similar. However, their work is not with athletes but with tiny somatic cells. The experts have developed a low-cost optical sensor to measure the force with which migrating cells push themselves away from an underlying surface.
Force analysis devices like these could one day help to identify specific cell types – more reliably than using a microscope or other conventional methods.
The sensor is the outcome of an EU project. It consists of a smooth surface that is studded with 250,000 tiny plastic columns measuring only five microns in diameter, rather like a fakir’s bed of nails. These columns are made of elastic polyurethane plastic. When a cell glides across them, it bends them very slightly sideways. This deflection is registered by a digital camera and analyzed by a special software program.
The researchers working with project manager Dr. Norbert Danz of the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering IOF in Jena have already shown that their ‘Cellforce’ sensor works. It will be the task of initial biological tests to show how different cell types behave. “Analysis of cell locomotion is important for numerous applications,” says Danz. “It could be used to check whether bone cells are successfully populating an implant, or how well a wound is healing.”
Developing the sensor was no easy undertaking. For one thing, the columns have to be coated in such a way that living cells are happy to move across their tips. The cells would otherwise avoid the tips and continue their journey lower down between the columns. In that case, there would be no deflection at all. Danz had the task of adapting the microscope required for cell magnification to make it exactly right for the application.
Building the delicate column structure developed by researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Applied Materials Research IFAM in Bremen is no less tricky: The researchers press liquid plastic at a pressure of 2000 bar into a negative mold and allow it to harden. It is a challenge even to manufacture the required mold, with its 250,000 micron-sized holes.
To allow cost-effective production of the ‘Cellforce’ sensor in future, the researchers utilize commercially available plastics and well-established techniques from chip manufacture. The first ‘Cellforce’ prototype is expected to be ready in a year’s time.
Monika Weiner | alfa
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Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
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Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
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