Intracellular particle tracking and self-assembly

The mechanical properties of cells are intimately connected with their form of locomotion, signalling and misfunctioning in diseased states e.g. malaria, heart disease and cancers. We are examining a number of new microrheology methods to examine the viscoelasticity inside live cells and relate these properties to the structure and dynamics of the constituent cellular biomolecules. Fast particle tracking allows us to probe the viscoelasticity at the cellular level over a wide range of time scales (0.01-10,000Hz) and allows intracellular hydrodynamics to be studied.

Self-assembly is a generic mechanism through which biological molecules explore their free energy landscapes and spontaneously arrange themselves in functional structures. Examples include the construction of blood clots, smectic nanostructures in carbohydrates, fibrous peptides, comb structures in proteoglycans, globular instabilities in glycoproteins and motor protein architectures. A range of experimental techniques are used to examine this behaviour including magnetic tweezers, optical coherence tomography picorheology, X-ray scattering and neutron scattering.

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