Low-intensity Light Controls Cells

Photo via flickr by istargazer

Scientists at the University of Central Florida have shown that light energy can gently guide and change the orientation of living cells. The ability to optically steer cells is slated to be a major step in guiding stem cells to the areas of the body that need help.

Research results were presented at the 2009 Conference on Lasers and Electro-Optics / International Quantum Electronics Conference. The discovery was led by Aristide Dogariu, an optical scientist at the College of Optics and Photonics, and Kiminobu Sugaya, a stem cell researcher at the College of Medicine’s Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences.

Long-term implications include the possibility of altering the shapes of cells and preventing malignant tumors from spreading throughout the body.

“Actin rods are constantly vibrating, causing the cells to move sporadically,” Sugaya said. The researchers demonstrated that low-intensity polarized light can guide the rods’ motion to ever-so-slowly line up and move in the desired direction.

“Stronger light would simply kill them,” Dogariu said. “We wanted to gently help the cells do their job the way they know how to do it.”

A time-lapse video shows that after more than two hours of exposure to light with specific characteristics, a group of stem cells migrates from a seemingly random mix of shapes, movement and sizes to a uniform lineup.

via Science Daily

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