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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Dec 23;105(51):20118-23. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0804723105. Epub 2008 Dec 10.

Optical methodology for detecting histologically unapparent nanoscale consequences of genetic alterations in biological cells.

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  • 1Department of Biomedical Engineering, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL 60208, USA. hariharan@u.northwestern.edu


Recently, there has been a major thrust to understand biological processes at the nanoscale. Optical microscopy has been exceedingly useful in imaging cell microarchitecture. Characterization of cell organization at the nanoscale, however, has been stymied by the lack of practical means of cell analysis at these small scales. To address this need, we developed a microscopic spectroscopy technique, single-cell partial-wave spectroscopy (PWS), which provides insights into the statistical properties of the nanoscale architecture of biological cells beyond what conventional microscopy reveals. Coupled with the mesoscopic light transport theory, PWS quantifies the disorder strength of intracellular architecture. As an illustration of the potential of the technique, in the experiments with cell lines and an animal model of colon carcinogenesis we show that increase in the degree of disorder in cell nanoarchitecture parallels genetic events in the early stages of carcinogenesis in otherwise microscopically/histologically normal-appearing cells. These data indicate that this advance in single-cell optics represented by PWS may have significant biomedical applications.

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