Optical manipulation for single-cell studies
In the last decade optical manipulation has evolved from a field of interest for physicists to a versatile tool widely used within life sciences. This has been made possible in particular due to the development of a large variety of imaging techniques that allow detailed information to be gained from investigations of single cells. The use of multiple optical traps has high potential within single-cell analysis since parallel measurements provide good statistics. Multifunctional optical tweezers are, for instance, used to study cell heterogeneity in an ensemble, and force measurements are used to investigate the mechanical properties of individual cells. Investigations of molecular motors and forces on the single-molecule level have led to discoveries that would have been difficult to make with other techniques. Optical manipulation has prospects within the field of cell signalling and tissue engineering. When combined with microfluidic systems the chemical environment of cells can be precisely controlled. Hence the influence of pH, salt concentration, drugs and temperature can be investigated in real time. Fast advancing technical developments of automated and user-friendly optical manipulation tools and cross-disciplinary collaboration will contribute to the routinely use of optical manipulation techniques within the life sciences.