University of Toronto researchers are using sound waves, in what seems to be a miniature ultrasound device, to detect cell feature variations as they are exposed to different surface materials from metals to hydrogen peroxide. The scientists believe the technique can lead to faster testing of drug/cell interactions and speed up pharmaceutical development.
The researchers introduced muscle cells into a device that produces acoustic waves. The characteristics of the sound waves were altered by the presence of the cells, and any changes to the cell morphology in turn affected the waves. Using this technique, the scientists were able to determine how well cells attached to different surfaces, and study changes in cell behaviour following introduction of metal ions or hydrogen peroxide.
Being able to study cell behaviour on surfaces is very desirable, said Thompson [Michael Thompson, one of the principal authors of the research -ed]. ‘It allows the rather exciting study of the importance of cell-cell communication and interaction in a rational way,’ he said, adding that this type of research is impossible to conduct on cells in clumps or in suspension.
Thompson said that an advantage of the acoustic technique over many existing methods is that it can be conducted in real time, so that cell responses are monitored as they happen. Also, it is non-destructive, meaning that cell behaviour is not compromised and can be studied by other methods following acoustic wave detection. He also added that the technique is very sensitive.
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Full article in the Analyst, a journal of “analytical, bioanalytical and detection science“: Surface immobilisation and properties of smooth muscle cells monitored by on-line acoustic wave detector