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Acoustic tweezers manipulate cell-to-cell contact

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Sound waves can precisely position groups of cells for study without the danger of changing or damaging the cells, according to a team of Penn State researchers who are using surface acoustic waves to manipulate cell spacing and contact.

"Optical tweezers are the gold-standard technique in the field," said Tony Jun Huang, professor of engineering science and mechanics. "They can trap two cells in place, but because of their high power they tends to affect the integrity of cells, and sometimes damage them.

Acoustic tweezers use the same low-power acoustic waves as those used in existing ultrasound machines, so they are gentle and can preserve cell integrity.