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Biomech Model Mechanobiol. 2010 Oct;9(5):563-72. doi: 10.1007/s10237-010-0197-7. Epub 2010 Feb 24.

Power-law rheology analysis of cells undergoing micropipette aspiration.

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  • 1Department of Mechanical Engineering, National University of Singapore, Singapore.


Accurate quantification of the mechanical properties of living cells requires the combined use of experimental techniques and theoretical models. In this paper, we investigate the viscoelastic response of suspended NIH 3T3 fibroblasts undergoing micropipette aspiration using power-law rheology model. As an important first step, we examine the pipette size effect on cell deformation and find that pipettes larger than ~7 μm are more suitable for bulk rheological measurements than smaller ones and the cell can be treated as effectively continuum. When the large pipettes are used to apply a constant pressure to a cell, the creep deformation is better fitted with the power-law rheology model than with the liquid drop or spring-dashpot models; magnetic twisting cytometry measurement on the rounded cell confirms the power-law behavior. This finding is further extended to suspended cells treated with drugs targeting their cytoskeleton. As such, our results suggest that the application of relatively large pipettes can provide more effective assessment of the bulk material properties as well as support application of power-law rheology to cells in suspension.

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