Medical Research

University of Colorado at Boulder

Xiaoyun Ding, Jill Slansky, Todd Murray, Corey Philip Neu
Boulder, CO
December 2019

Biomarkers, or biological markers, are measurable indicators of biological state or condition.  The measurement and characterization of mechanical biomarkers (mechanical properties) of cells, such as mass, compressibility, viscosity, stiffness and density, has been of great interest to biomedical researchers and could have profound impact in cellular biology, drug research, cancer and other diseases.  The cell mechanical properties are useful indicators of changes in cytoskeleton and nuclear organization.  They could serve as label-free biomarkers for determining cell states or properties such as metastatic potential, cell cycle stage, degree of differentiation, and leukocyte activation.  In this project, investigators at the University of Colorado aim to develop a newly conceptualized technology, termed acoustic activated flow cytometry, to simultaneously measure multiple mechanical biomarkers of individual cells at a high throughput of up to millions of cells per hour.  Surface acoustic wave (SAW), a kind of sound, is a mechanical wave that propagates at the interface of a solid and a liquid medium.  Its propagation is highly sensitive to the mechanical properties of the cells passing through the propagating pathway of SAW.  By measuring the SAW signal change when cells continuously flow through, the team would be able to collect the details of multiple mechanical properties of individual cells at a high rate.  The measurement of multi-dimensional mechanical biomarkers of individual cells in high throughput is beyond the capability of any current technology and could provide an entirely new foundation for both fundamental cell biology and clinical research.

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