Non-contact mechanical and chemical analysis of single living cells by microspectroscopic techniques

A non-contact method that combines two microspectroscopic techniques can perform mechanical and chemical analysis of single living cells. These properties are intimately connected and assures the correct functionality of cells and tissues: their imbalances can be symptoms and effects of pathologies. Current measurements of cell mechanics require physical contact or they lack in spatial resolution. Now, we have demonstrated an innovative method that can simultaneously characterize the elastic and chemical properties of living cells with sub-cellular spatial resolution without using labels.


The optical system, in fact, acquires simultaneously the Brillouin and Raman spectra and, exploiting the interaction between light and matter, is able to provide contactless a mechanical and chemical maps of the system under investigation. The collaboration of physicists and biotechnologists, extend this approach to the analysis of single living cells, proving in particular the ability of the technique to monitor the mechanical modulation due to subcellular protein structures.

Furthermore, it has been found that upon oncogene expression, cells show a significant softening. This property can explain the invasive potential observed in tumor cells: their increased deformability helps them spreading through the narrow spaces of the extracellular matrix, favoring the future development of metastasis.

This study highlights how mechanical properties of cells can be a new bio-marker for pathologies and how the proposed technique can become a potential diagnostic tool, even in tumors."

More details can be found in: S.Mattana, M. Mattarelli, L. Urbanelli, K. Sagini, C. Emiliani, M. Dalla Serra, D. Fioretto and S. Caponi ‘Non-contact mechanical and chemical analysis of single living cells by micro-spectroscopic techniques’, Light: Science & Applications (2018) 7, e17139; doi: 10.1038/lsa.2017.139


The results have been highlighted in italian TV and in national and international media: