A structure used in the building of canyon-spanning bridges has been transformed by a collaboration of physicists and biologists into a tiny set of scales that can weigh individual cells. These scales are incredibly precise, detecting weight changes that are one trillion times smaller than a rivet. A cell is balanced near the edge of a long beam, called a cantilever, which is anchored at the opposite end. This device allows the moment-to-moment changes in a cell’s weight to be tracked in minute detail. It could help understand how a cell’s internal physiology changes during diseases such as cancer or in response to drug treatments. To test it out, the team weighed a cell before and after infection with a virus. At first, the scales detected cell growth and a gradual increase in mass. But after infection this growth was halted as the virus began to hijack the cell’s resources.
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.