Optical Phase Measurements of Disorder Strength Link Microstructure to Cell Stiffness.
There have been sustained efforts on the part of cell biologists to understand the mechanisms by which cells respond to mechanical stimuli. To this end, many rheological tools have been developed to characterize cellular stiffness. However, measurement of cellular viscoelastic properties has been limited in scope by the nature of most microrheological methods, which require direct mechanical contact, applied at the single-cell level. In this article, we describe, to our knowledge, a new analysis approach for quantitative phase imaging that relates refractive index variance to disorder strength, a parameter that is linked to cell stiffness. Significantly, both disorder strength and cell stiffness are measured with the same phase imaging system, presenting a unique alternative for label-free, noncontact, single-shot imaging of cellular rheologic properties. To demonstrate the potential applicability of the technique, we measure phase disorder strength and shear stiffness across five cellular populations with varying mechanical properties and demonstrate an inverse relationship between these two parameters. The existence of this relationship suggests that predictions of cell mechanical properties can be obtained from examining the disorder strength of cell structure using this, to our knowledge, novel, noncontact technique.
Eldridge, WJ; Steelman, ZA; Loomis, B; Wax, A
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