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J Biomed Opt. 2013 Apr;18(4):045001. doi: 10.1117/1.JBO.18.4.045001.

Optical micromanipulation of active cells with minimal perturbations: direct and indirect pushing.

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  • 1University of Maryland, Biophysics Graduate Program, College Park, Maryland, USA.


The challenge to wide application of optical tweezers in biological micromanipulation is the photodamage caused by high-intensity laser exposure to the manipulated living systems. While direct exposure to infrared lasers is less likely to kill cells, it can affect cell behavior and signaling. Pushing cells with optically trapped objects has been introduced as a less invasive alternative, but the technique includes some exposure of the biological object to parts of the optical tweezer beam. To keep the cells farther away from the laser, we introduce an indirect pushing-based technique for noninvasive manipulation of sensitive cells. We compare how cells respond to three manipulation approaches: direct manipulation, pushing, and indirect pushing. We find that indirect manipulation techniques lessen the impact of manipulation on cell behavior. Cell survival increases, as does the ability of cells to maintain shape and wiggle. Our experiments also demonstrate that indirect pushing allows cell-cell contacts to be formed in a controllable way, while retaining the ability of cells to change shape and move.

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