Nanotechnology in reverse uses cell to calibrate tools

May 15, 2008

Nanotechnology researchers at UC Davis have shown that they can use a red blood cell to calibrate a sensitive instrument, an atomic force microscope.

"It turns around the rules of nanotechnology, by using biology to calibrate an instrument," said Volkmar Heinrich, assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at UC Davis and co-author of the paper with graduate student Chawin Ounkomol.

An atomic force microscope uses a tiny lever that runs over the surface of an object. Small deflections of the tip are read and translated to produce an image of the object's surface. However, accurate calibration of the springiness of the tip is difficult.

Heinrich and Ounkomol used individual red blood cells sucked onto the end of a pipette to push the lever. The lab has previously developed a model that calculates the exact forces needed to squeeze a red blood cell by a certain amount. They could therefore use the red blood cell to very accurately calibrate the springiness of the atomic force microscope cantilever.

Heinrich does not see the technique as a new way to calibrate these instruments, but it does show that the red blood cell can be used as an accurate force transducer, he said, and could be used as a tool to measure forces between individual molecules and cells or between molecules. Those measurements can advance our understanding of cell biology, for example how cancers spread or how immune cells enter tissues to fight infection.

Source: University of California - Davis

Explore further: Experts cautious over Google nanoparticle project

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Faster, cheaper tests for sickle cell disease

Sep 01, 2014

Within minutes after birth, every child in the U.S. undergoes a battery of tests designed to diagnose a host of conditions, including sickle cell disease. Thousands of children born in the developing world, ...

Recommended for you

Nanosafety research: The quest for the gold standard

Oct 29, 2014

Empa toxicologist Harald Krug has lambasted his colleagues in the journal Angewandte Chemie. He evaluated several thousand studies on the risks associated with nanoparticles and discovered no end of shortc ...

New nanodevice to improve cancer treatment monitoring

Oct 27, 2014

In less than a minute, a miniature device developed at the University of Montreal can measure a patient's blood for methotrexate, a commonly used but potentially toxic cancer drug. Just as accurate and ten ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.