The team faced challenges in applying picosecond ultrasonics to study biological systems. One challenge was the fluid-like material properties of the cell. "The light scattering process we use to detect the mechanical properties of the cell is much weaker than for solids," says Audoin. "We had to improve the signal to noise ratio without using a high-powered laser that would damage the cell." The team also faced the challenge of natural cell variation. "If you probe silicon, you do it once and it's finished," says Audoin. "If you probe the nucleus you have to do it hundreds of times and look at the statistics."
The team developed methods to overcome these challenges by testing their techniques on polymer capsules and plant cells before moving on to human cells. In the coming years the team envisions studying cancer cells with sound. "A cancerous tissue is stiffer than a healthy tissue," notes Audoin. "If you can measure the rigidity of the cells while you provide different drugs, you can test if you are able to stop the cancer at the cell scale."
|Contact: Ellen R. Weiss|
American Institute of Physics