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Ultrasonics. 2015 Feb;56:160-71. doi: 10.1016/j.ultras.2014.07.010. Epub 2014 Aug 5.

Probing single-cell mechanics with picosecond ultrasonics.

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Univ. Bordeaux, I2M, UMR 5295, F-33400 Talence, France; CNRS, I2M, UMR 5295, F-33400 Talence, France.
Univ. Bordeaux, CBMN, UMR CNRS 5248, F-33607 Pessac, France.
Univ Paris-Sud, UMR CNRS 8612, Physicochimie-Pharmacotechnie-Biopharmacie, Faculté de Pharmacie, F-92296 Châtenay-Malabry, France.
Univ. Bordeaux, I2M, UMR 5295, F-33400 Talence, France; CNRS, I2M, UMR 5295, F-33400 Talence, France. Electronic address:


The mechanical properties of cells play a key role in several fundamental biological processes, such as migration, proliferation, differentiation and tissue morphogenesis. The complexity of the inner cell composition and the intricate meshwork formed by transmembrane cell-substrate interactions demands a non-invasive technique to probe cell mechanics and cell adhesion at a subcell scale. In this paper we review the use of laser-generated GHz acoustic waves--a technique called picosecond ultrasonics (PU)--to probe the mechanical properties of single cells. We first describe applications to vegetal cells and biomimetic systems. We show how these systems can be used as simple models to understand more complex animal cells. We then present an opto-acoustic bio-transducer designed for in vivo measurements in physiological conditions. We illustrate the use of this transducer through the simultaneous probing of the density and compressibility of Allium cepa cells. Finally, we demonstrate that this technique can quantify animal-cell adhesion on metallic surfaces by analyzing the acoustic pulses reflected off the cell-metal interface. This innovative approach allows investigating quantitatively cell mechanics without fluorescent labels or mechanical contact to the cell.


Cell adhesion; Cell mechanics; Picosecond ultrasonics

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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