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Rheology at the micro-scale: new tools for bio-analysis

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  • Biology
  • Medicine
  • Pharmacology


We present a simple and non-invasive experimental procedure to measure the linear viscoelastic properties of cells by passive particle tracking microrheology. In order to do this, a generalised Langevin equation is adopted to relate the timedependent thermal fluctuations of a probe sensor, immobilised to the cell’s membrane, to the frequency-dependent viscoelastic moduli of the cell. The method has been validated by measuring the linear viscoelastic response of a soft solid and then applied to cell physiology studies. It is shown that the viscoelastic moduli are related to the cell’s cytoskeletal structure, which in this work is modulated either by inhibiting the actin/myosin-II interactions by means of blebbistatin or by varying the solution osmolarity from iso- to hypo-osmotic conditions. The insights gained from this form of rheological analysis promises to be a valuable addition to physiological studies; e.g. cell physiology during pathology and pharmacological response.

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