Optical Wrench Made for Moving and Twisting Cells

Guest_Jim_* - December 13, 2012 05:01PM in Science & Technology

No toolbox is complete without a set of wrenches. This is true for the weekend handyman and the professional, but soon the microbiologist too, though their tool does not look like what the others have. As reported by in the Optical Society of America's Optics Letters journal, researchers at the University of Texas at Arlington have created a fiber-optic spanner with the ability to move individual cells and rotate them about any axis.

The technology is related to optical tweezers which can grab cells and move them along straight lines, but is different in many ways. Instead of a laser directly controlling the cell, two fiber optic cables are used to convey laser beams to the cell. By shifting the position of the cable, the forces applied to the cell can also be shifted, causing it to move however the operator wishes.

The scope of what this technology is capable of is hard to see right now as it unlocks so much for researchers. Medical researchers could use it to grab cells and observing how they spin could indicate if the cell is cancerous or not. Also chemists could use it to scan objects and determine its chemical properties.