A Laser in a Living Cell – Cellular scale photonics for optical sensing, tracking and manipulation

05.11.2018 von 17:15 bis 18:00

SUPA, School of Physics and Astronomy, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, United Kingdom

I will present our work on new micro- and nano-photonic devices for studying cells and their behaviour. Our lab is most well-known for the Guinness World Record invention of the biological laser. By inserting microlasers into live cells we tag and track individual cells in large cell populations over extended periods of time and we are currently developing this further to perform in vivo intracellular sensing and cell tracking, e.g. in the heart of zebrafish.

Beyond these unique lasers, my lab develops and applies a range of further functional imaging modalities based on optical resonators with dimensions comparable to or smaller than a cell. Our Elastic Resonator Interference Stress Microscopy (ERISM) method, for instance, robustly measures the piconewton to nanonewton forces that cells apply to their substrate. ERISM requires no zero-force reference and avoids phototoxic effects, which facilitates force monitoring over multiple days and at high frame rates and eliminates the need to detach cells after measurements. This allows the observation of slow cellular processes, like differentiation, or force monitoring during prolonged disease states, e.g. during podocyte damage – a pivotal event underlying the pathogenesis of multiple glomerular diseases.

Finally, my group is very active in developing an implantable high-resolution light source and lens-less imager for advanced optogenetics studies. Again, miniaturization of photonic device to cell-scale dimensions is the key challenge. Organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) are highly attractive in this context, in particular due to their low toxicity, fast switching, high brightness, and ability to provide patterned illumination with very high spatial resolution. OLED microarrays containing >100,000 individual top-emitting OLED pixels with µm dimensions are used to control cell behaviour and electrophysiology.

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