Optical tweezers use a laser to grab tiny objects, holding them with weak forces arising from their interaction with the light. Yin-Mei Li and her team at the University of Science and Technology of China in Hefei moved blood cells around inside a capillary in the ear of a mouse with the tweezers, unpicking a blockage cell by cell. (see video above). They also used the tweezers to immobilise a red blood cell, mimicking the effect of an obstruction such as a clot.
Since light must pass through living tissue, which scatters and absorbs it, the tweezers can only work up to a depth of 40 micrometres at the moment. But the team believes that the depth will increase with more powerful lasers and advances in optics.
Kishan Dholakia at the University of St Andrews, UK, thinks the technique could also keep cells in place under a microscope, making it easier to study some diseases.
Journal reference: Nature Communications, DOI: 10.1038/ncomms2786
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