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Traffic. 2001 Nov;2(11):757-63.

Using optics to measure biological forces and mechanics.

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Department of of Biomedical Engineering, The Johns Hopkins University, 720 Rutland Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA.


Spanning all size levels, regulating biological forces and transport are fundamental life processes. Used by various investigators over the last dozen years, optical techniques offer unique advantages for studying biological forces. The most mature of these techniques, optical tweezers, or the single-beam optical trap, is commercially available and is used by numerous investigators. Although technical innovations have improved the versatility of optical tweezers, simple optical tweezers continue to provide insights into cell biology. Two new, promising optical technologies, laser-tracking microrheology and the optical stretcher, allow mechanical measurements that are not possible with optical tweezers. Here, I review these various optical technologies and their roles in understanding mechanical forces in cell biology.

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