Understanding the Behaviour of Cells Using Observation Chambers

The nanophotonic biosensor developed by the researchers is a glass slide coated with a thin gold film, perforated with billions of nanopores arranged in a precise pattern.
Like humans, cells of an equivalent species each have a distinct "personality." when confronted with an external stimulus sort of a virus, they each secrete a special amount of molecules and communicate with one another to a variable degree. Studies have already shown that two cells of an equivalent kind might not behave identically when subjected to the same treatment.

In their quest to find out additional, researchers from EPFL, working in collaboration with RMIT University in Australia and also the University of Lausanne, have come up with an optofluidic device that features a tiny chamber inside. The chamber is around one one-thousandth the dimensions of a raindrop. A cell is placed within the chamber, so researchers can observe it in real time while not disrupting its surroundings. the quantity and type of the cell's chemical secretions are often monitored continuously. The device has been shown to work for twelve hours straight, however, may perform much longer, giving researchers a strong and innovative selection tool. The results have been published in small.

Studying cells one by one

All cells function in their own complicated means. Cancer cells, let's say, produce numerous hormones and proteins so as to spread and to invade healthy tissue; immune cells respond to an infection or a trespasser by secreting chemical mediators referred to as cytokines that stimulate the immune system to fight the enemy. however, what's the actual mechanism underlying each cell's behaviour?

Numerous studies are run on how groups of cells operate, but we've precious very little data on the behaviour of individual cells. Compatible with traditional microscopes, the integrated and miniaturized device developed by the EPFL researchers offers a brand new way to gain insight into cell processes and communication. It additionally sets the stage for the development of new therapies to treat cancer and autoimmune diseases. "We could let's say, choose the most effective immune cells to combat a given illness," says Hatice Altug, an author of the study and head of the Bionanophotonic Systems Laboratory at EPFL's School of Engineering.

Cells separately housed, fed and analyzed

The nanophotonic biosensor developed by the researchers is a glass slide coated with a thin gold film, perforated with billions of nanopores organized in a very precise pattern. a small chamber whose walls are made from porous membranes is placed on top of the slide. The chamber receives a gradual flow of water and nutrients through tiny microfluidic channels. Temperature and humidness are carefully regulated. The device contains valves that allow scientists to insert a cell into the chamber, during which ligands or antibodies are positioned to acknowledge and capture specific molecules secreted by the cell.

A broadband source of illumination shines on the chamber. thanks to an optical phenomenon referred to as plasmons, the nanopores let only 1 light-wave frequency or colour through. when a cell secretes a molecule, it attaches to the antibodies, thereby changing the frequency transmitted by the nanopores. {this is|this is often|this can be} how minutes of specific molecules can be identified.

The researchers have used their new technique to check protein secretion levels in cancer cells. "Until now, the strategies used to study individual cells have always required fluorophores," says Altug. "Yet these compounds interfere with the cells' functioning and create real-time studies impossible." Maria Soler, the study's co-lead author, adds: "In our device, every nanopore is a separate device. Cells can thus settle naturally anyplace within the chamber, and that we will analyze them an equivalent way."

There are various potential applications. "Our approach might be used to establish the most aggressive cancer cells in a tumour and judge precisely which treatment to administer to the patient," concludes Xiaokang Li, the study's co-lead author.
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