January 25, 2016

Acoustic tweezers manipulate cells with sound waves

An illustration of the surface acoustic wave generators, with the generated 3-D trapping nodes.
he Inset indicates a single particle within a 3-D trapping node, which can be manipulated
independently along x, y, or z axes. Courtesy of the researchers

(January 25, 2016)  Engineers at MIT, Penn State University, and Carnegie Mellon University have devised a way to manipulate cells in three dimensions using sound waves. These “acoustic tweezers” could make possible 3-D printing of cell structures for tissue engineering and other applications, the researchers say.

Designing tissue implants that can be used to treat human disease requires precisely recreating the natural tissue architecture, but so far it has proven difficult to develop a single method that can achieve that while keeping cells viable and functional.
“The results presented in this paper provide a unique pathway to manipulate biological cells accurately and in three dimensions, without the need for any invasive contact, tagging, or biochemical labeling,” says Subra Suresh, president of Carnegie Mellon and former dean of engineering at MIT. “This approach could lead to new possibilities for research and applications in such areas as regenerative medicine, neuroscience, tissue engineering, biomanufacturing, and cancer metastasis.”

Suresh, Ming Dao, a principal research scientist in MIT’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering, and Tony Jun Huang, a professor of engineering science and mechanics at Penn State, are senior authors of a paper describing the device, published the week of Jan. 25. in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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