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Development of a nanomechanical tool-box for the investigation of cell mechanics (NANOFORCELLS)
Start date: Nov 1, 2011, End date: Oct 31, 2016 PROJECT  FINISHED 

The fact that biophysical and biomechanical properties of cells and subcellular structure influence and are influenced by onset and progression of human diseases is now attracting the physiologists attention. This opens up new routes for disease diagnosis and treatment. The first traditional way to discover a tumor was by palpation, such as sweetness in urine was indicative of diabetes. Nowadays, the biochemical search for diagnosis markers has experienced amazing advancements, while the physical cues have remained almost forgotten; this is mainly due to a lack of powerful tools able to unravel the mechanics of individual cells. This proposal aims to develop a set of tools and demonstrate their potential for the throughout study of individual cell mechanics and sub-cellular structures. The proposed tools will provide the route to develop mechanical and physical assays to extract the elastic and viscoelastic deformability of f.e. cancer cells as compared to healthy cells, providing with mechanical biomarkers for diagnosis. NANOFORCELLS proposes an innovative approach combining optical interferometry together with advanced nanomechanical systems and AFM local characterization. This mechanical lab for cells will provide new knowledge that can not be attained today with present technologies. Also, the proposed nanomechanical devices of this project will provide not only a direct measurement for single cell rigidity but the capability for parallel measurement of hundreds of individual cells per minute, opening the route for portable tests that could prove very general to determine the health status of cells from blood samples. Also, interaction of cell with the environment can be studied in real time and thus the devices will provide tools for the study of drug effects and drug delivery vehicles, or for the assessment of the toxicity of nanoparticles.

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