The mechanisms by which cells respond to mechanical stimuli are essential for cell function yet not well understood. Many rheological tools have been developed to characterize cellular viscoelastic properties but these typically require direct mechanical contact, limiting their throughput. We have developed a new approach for characterizing the organization of subcellular structures using a label free, noncontact, single-shot phase imaging method that correlates to measured cellular mechanical stiffness. The new analysis approach measures refractive index variance and relates it to disorder strength. These measurements are compared to cellular stiffness, measured using the same imaging tool to visualize nanoscale responses to flow shear stimulus. The utility of the technique is shown by comparing shear stiffness and phase disorder strength across five cellular populations with varying mechanical properties. An inverse relationship between disorder strength and shear stiffness is shown, suggesting that cell mechanical properties can be assessed in a format amenable to high throughput studies using this novel, non-contact technique. Further studies will be presented which include examination of mechanical stiffness in early carcinogenic events and investigation of the role of specific cellular structural proteins in mechanotransduction.
Adam Wax, "Phase imaging of mechanical properties of live cells (Conference Presentation)," Proc. SPIE 10074, Quantitative Phase Imaging III, 100740S (Presented at SPIE BiOS: January 30, 2017; Published: 24 April 2017); https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2255903.5380600136001.
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