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The Interaction of Light with Cells

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Light has been central in the life sciences to visually investigate cells. In recent years it has increasingly been used to also manipulate biological samples by optically induced forces. Besides trapping, moving, and rotating cells, optical traps can even deform cells in a controlled and nondestructive way. The deformation of cells with such an optical stretcher can be used to gain insight into the structural properties of the cytoskeleton of cells. In addition, the deformability of cells has turned out to be a very sensitive inherent cell marker for any cellular change that is mirrored in the cytoskeleton. This contact-free, tactile approach can be used to diagnose cancer and to identify and sort stem cells from heterogeneous populations. In turn, light can also be actively manipulated by cells. Current research shows that there are glial cells in the retina that serve as optical fibers with saturable transmission. This discovery sheds new light on the retina as an optical system and might help explain the paradox of its inverted structure.

This talk is part of the BSS Formal Seminars series.

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