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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1991 Sep 1;88(17):7896-900.

Micromotion of mammalian cells measured electrically.

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School of Science, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY 12180-3590.

Erratum in

  • Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 1993 Feb 15;90(4):1634.


Motility is a fundamental property of mammalian cells that normally is observed in tissue culture by time lapse microscopy where resolution is limited by the wavelength of light. This paper examines a powerful electrical technique by which cell motion is quantitatively measured at the nanometer level. In this method, the cells are cultured on small evaporated gold electrodes carrying weak ac currents. A large change in the measured electrical impedance of the electrodes is observed when cells attach and spread on these electrodes. When the impedance is tracked as a function of time, fluctuations are observed that are a direct measure of cell motion. Surprisingly, these fluctuations continue even when the cell layer becomes confluent. By comparing the measured impedance with a theoretical model, it is clear that under these circumstances the average motions of the cell layer of 1 nm can be inferred from the measurements. We refer to this aspect of cell motility as micromotion.

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