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Designing an experiment to measure cellular interaction forces

McAlinden, Niall and Glass, David Gavin and Millington, Owain and Wright, Amanda (2013) Designing an experiment to measure cellular interaction forces. In: SPIE Proceedings. SPIE, Bellingham, 88101L.

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Optical trapping is a powerful tool in Life Science research and is becoming common place in many microscopy laboratories and facilities. The force applied by the laser beam on the trapped object can be accurately determined allowing any external forces acting on the trapped object to be deduced. We aim to design a series of experiments that use an optical trap to measure and quantify the interaction force between immune cells. In order to cause minimum perturbation to the sample we plan to directly trap T cells and remove the need to introduce exogenous beads to the sample. This poses a series of challenges and raises questions that need to be answered in order to design a set of effect end-point experiments. A typical cell is large compared to the beads normally trapped and highly non-uniform – can we reliably trap such objects and prevent them from rolling and re-orientating? In this paper we show how a spatial light modulator can produce a triple-spot trap, as opposed to a single-spot trap, giving complete control over the object’s orientation and preventing it from rolling due, for example, to Brownian motion. To use an optical trap as a force transducer to measure an external force you must first have a reliably calibrated system. The optical trapping force is typically measured using either the theory of equipartition and observing the Brownian motion of the trapped object or using an escape force method, e.g. the viscous drag force method. In this paper we examine the relationship between force and displacement, as well as measuring the maximum displacement from equilibrium position before an object falls out of the trap, hence determining the conditions under which the different calibration methods should be applied.