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Optical tweezer system for mechanobiology

Photon Lines Ltd, exclusive UK and Ireland distributor of several of the world’s leading manufacturers of fluorescence microscopy systems and accessories, is pleased to announce that they now offer an exciting new microscopic biomechanical force sensor system called SENSOCELL® from Impetux, of Barcelona, Spain. SENSOCELL is an add-on instrument for Nikon inverted microscopes compatible with different imaging techniques including BrightField, epi-FL, TIRF and confocal microscopy. It can be either integrated on to an installed microscope or offered in an integrated platform which includes a new Nikon Ti-2 inverted microscope. The system is unique in not needing calibration to measure forces within cells and tissues, rather than latex and glass spheres, which is not the case for competitors’ systems.

The Impetux optical tweezers platform includes an optical manipulation module which allows the generation and manipulation of up to 256 simultaneous optical traps. Trap steering is performed at 25 kHz frequency by means of an acousto-optic deflection (AOD) system. Users can apply predefined oscillations and/or trajectories over multiple traps or control them using the “click & drag” mode. 

In addition to achieving direct force measurements inside living cells, a feature unavailable from other optical tweezer systems, the SENSOCELL system also allows simultaneous direct force measurements over multiple independent traps in the X-Y and Z planes. Hence accurate determination of the positions of trapped particles is possible, and by applying the system’s “Force Clamp” mode, it is possible to control pulling and pushing force rates exerted by the optical traps. Furthermore, the sensor continuously monitors laser power at the sample plane giving maximum control over the irradiation levels imposed on samples, thus avoiding bleaching.

Applications for the system include micro-rheology of soft biological tissue, and with the rise of mechanobiology and its implications in broad fields such as cancer, developmental biology and regenerative medicine, growing interest has focused on measuring the mechanical properties of living cells, tissues and biological scaffolds. The stiffness of cells and their surrounding environment ranges from hundreds of Pa (brain tissue) to hundreds of kPa (bone). Using SENSOCELL, researchers can measure many types of living tissue over a range which covers stiffnesses from a few Pa to several kPa, making it an extremely versatile instrument which covers many important applications in the life sciences field. Notable among these currently are force-relaxation tests for cell membrane and cell nucleus mechanics studies. In addition, most biological tissue is viscoelastic, that is, it behaves neither as a perfectly elastic solid nor as a flowing viscous liquid, but rather as a combination of both. In pathological states such as cancer and inflammation, cells and tissues change not only their stiffness, but also the balance between their elastic and viscous responses to external forces, making the system ideal for such studies.

If you are based in the UK or Ireland and would like to arrange a demonstration (including online) contact Dr Ruedi Bader at 


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