Development of optical trapping techniques for in vivo investigations – Niels Bohr Institute - University of Copenhagen

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Development of optical trapping techniques for in vivo investigations

Optical tweezers provide a non-contact method of manipulating microscopic objects, such as polystyrene beads and cells, as well as operating as highly accurate force transducers.

With this in mind, they allow unprecedented access to force information for investigations into biological processes and functions on the microscopic scale, both in vivo and in vitro.

A lot of research efforts have been placed into understanding the function of bio-molecules in reconstituted model systems because of their simplicity with respect to a living cell. However, the behaviours of bio-molecules while in the cytoplasm of a living cell are believed to be significantly different to those observed in simplified in vitro experiments.

Furthermore, there is a large amount of cooperativity in a living cell which is not understood; for example, the action of the mitotic spindle in separating duplicate copies of DNA during cell division.

This work makes several steps towards overcoming some of the many obstacles currently preventing quantitative force measurements inside living cells, which will hopefully allow future studies to determine how the most fundamental of intracellular processes occur and the control mechanisms that govern them.