Single molecule force spectroscopy (SMFS) is used to study the fundamental forces that drive the biological activity of cells and proteins. Nearly al of these biophysical measurements are performed in vitro using purified biomolecules. When studying the function and mechanics of cells, this approach yields inherently incomplete results by failing to account for the influence of the intracellular environment. Therefore, the development of a force spectroscopy system capable of in vivo sensing will advance biophysical measurement capability and help clarify the origins of the interactions driving cellular function. Broadly, a more complete understanding of cellular processes will aid researchers in the discovery and development of treatments for various disorders including cancer. This proposal outlines the development of a novel instrument that combines the manipulation capabilities of optical and magnetic tweezers to facilitate high resolution positioning as well as the application of a relatively large range of forces inside a living cell. To realize an instrumen of this type, an optical tweezers system will be retrofitted with a magnetic apparatus capable of generating controllable rotating magnetic fields. Magnetically anisotropic Janus spheres, less than 200 nm in diameter, will be fabricated to serve as probes that can be optically trapped and magnetically actuated. Their size will facilitate cellular uptake via endocytosis. Once inside the cell infrared laser beams or ultrafast laser pulses combined with external magnetic actuation will enable probe motility and force application without compromising the health of the cell. Advanced servo control schemes will allow the accurate application of forces and measurement of intracellular mechanics. Initially probes will be inserted into live granulocytes to access instrument performance. Once parameters are optimized the in vivo force spectroscopy instrument will be made available to the general research community for the characterization of a myriad of cell lines.

Public Health Relevance

(provided by applicant): The cell is the fundamental functional unit of human life yet many of its internal and external interactions remain mysterious. Through the application of forces and torques via microscopic probes inserted into the cell, we aim to quantify and manipulate these interactions. Accurate quantification will provide new insight into cellular processes, which could eventually be used to help understand the mechanisms driving various diseases including cancer.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)
Exploratory/Developmental Grants (R21)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZRR1-BT-7 (01))
Program Officer
Friedman, Fred K
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
University of Rochester
Engineering (All Types)
Schools of Engineering
United States
Zip Code
Lawson, Joseph L; Jenness, Nathan J; Clark, Robert L (2015) Optomagnetically Controlled Microparticles Manufactured with Glancing Angle Deposition. Part Part Syst Charact 32:734-742
Lawson, Joseph L; Jenness, Nathan J; Clark, Robert L (2015) Optical trapping performance of dielectric-metallic patchy particles. Opt Express 23:33956-69