New magnetofluidic “tweezers” capable of manipulating a single living cell

Written by Susannah May

Confocal images of a single cell under the magnetic micropen before and after turning on the external field

Single cell manipulation can provide insight into cell mechanics and adhesion, and has a crucial role in in vitro fertilization (IVF). Bartusz Grzybowski at Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology in South Korea and his team’s new technique for this doesn’t need cells to be magnetically tagged beforehand. It also avoids the risks of heat- or stress-induced cell damage that can occur with other methods.

Grzybowski et al.’s method relies on an iron oxide nanoparticle medium in which cells are suspended. Applying an electromagnet to the magnetic medium through a micropen creates field gradients, which direct the cell to move in a certain direction. By varying how the micropen “tweezers” are positioned, cell movement can be manipulated in both 2 and 3 dimensions.

As well as controlling a single cell, the micropen can be used to pick up several cells together and guide them into regularly shaped clusters. Although it’s a long way off, this could one day be used to make IVF processes more efficient, reducing the number of potential embryos that need to be discarded. It could also be extended to manipulating bacteria and other single-celled organisms to conduct detailed studies on their behaviour.

Read the full article for free, here:
Trapping, manipulation and crystallization of live cells using magnetofluidic tweezers
J. V. I. Timonen, C. Raimondo, D. Pilans, P. P. Pillai and B. A. Grzybowski
Nanoscale Horiz., 2016, Advance Article

Susannah May is a guest web writer for the RSC Journal blogs. She currently works in the Publishing Department of the Royal Society of Chemistry, and has a keen interest in biology and biomedicine, and the frontiers of their intersection with chemistry. She can be found on Twitter using @SusannahCIMay.

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