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Nat Commun. 2013;4:1768. doi: 10.1038/ncomms2786.

Trapping red blood cells in living animals using optical tweezers.

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Department of Optics and Optical Engineering and Hefei National Laboratory for Physical Science at Microscale, University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei 230026, China.


The recent development of non-invasive imaging techniques has enabled the visualization of molecular events underlying cellular processes in live cells. Although microscopic objects can be readily manipulated at the cellular level, additional physiological insight is likely to be gained by manipulation of cells in vivo, which has not been achieved so far. Here we use infrared optical tweezers to trap and manipulate red blood cells within subdermal capillaries in living mice. We realize a non-contact micro-operation that results in the clearing of a blocked microvessel. Furthermore, we estimate the optical trap stiffness in the capillary. Our work expands the application of optical tweezers to the study of live cell dynamics in animals.

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