Biologists first introduced a mechanical sensor into a mammalian cell

(ORDO NEWS) — Scientists introduced a device into a living cell that allowed them to follow the currents in the intracellular environment. Such a sensor will help to better understand the work of the cell. Perhaps, thanks to this knowledge, mankind will conquer now incurable diseases.

The achievement is described in a scientific article published in the journal Nature Materials by a group led by Anthony Perry from the University of Bath.

Biologists have long suggested that the flow in the intracellular environment (cytoplasm) is an important part of the work of the cell. But this movement has hardly been studied, because until now, researchers have not had suitable tools for this.

Now scientists from Spain, the UK and the USA have made a breakthrough by first introducing a mechanical sensor into the mammalian cell.

“This is a first look from the inside on such a scale to the physics of any cell,” says Perry. “For the first time, someone saw from the inside how the substance of a cell moves and organizes.”

A device that can monitor the flow of intracellular fluid looks very simple. Most of all, it resembles a grill or a double-sided comb. These are four longitudinal plates with a length of 22 micrometers and a width of 1.5 micrometers each. In the middle, they are connected by one transverse plate with a length of 10.5 micrometers. The entire structure has a thickness of 25 nanometers and consists of silicon.

A similar microbot is a kind of spider with eight legs. When this “arthropod” is inside the cell, the movement of its “legs” can be observed under a microscope. And they are so thin that they bend and unbend under the influence of the smallest currents in the surrounding fluid.

To test their “agents,” the researchers literally mounted them on mouse sperm and let the latter merge with the eggs. The result was fertilized eggs (zygotes), inside which were devices created by scientists.

Biologists chose zygotes for the first experiments, since they reach one hundred micrometers in diameter, which is ten times larger than a normal mouse cell.

Observations under the microscope showed that the “spiders” really moved. Their “limbs” bent and unbent, noting the stages of development of a unicellular embryo before division.

“Sometimes the devices were untwisted and twisted by forces exceeding even the forces inside the muscle cells,” Perry says. “In other cases, the devices moved very weakly, indicating that the internal environment of the cell became calm.

There was nothing accidental in these processes. From the moment a unicellular embryo forms, everything happens in a predictable way. The physics [embryo development] is programmed. ”

A study of intracellular mechanics will surely add important pieces to a huge puzzle called “living cell functioning”. And how successfully it is assembled depends on both life itself and success in our fight against diseases and aging.


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