Acoustic sensors as a biophysical tool for probing cell attachment and cell/surface interactions

Cell Mol Life Sci. 2012 Feb;69(3):357-71. doi: 10.1007/s00018-011-0854-8. Epub 2011 Oct 15.


Acoustic biosensors offer the possibility to analyse cell attachment and spreading. This is due to the offered speed of detection, the real-time non-invasive approach and their high sensitivity not only to mass coupling, but also to viscoelastic changes occurring close to the sensor surface. Quartz crystal microbalance (QCM) and surface acoustic wave (Love-wave) systems have been used to monitor the adhesion of animal cells to various surfaces and record the behaviour of cell layers under various conditions. The sensors detect cells mostly via their sensitivity in viscoelasticity and mechanical properties. Particularly, the QCM sensor detects cytoskeletal rearrangements caused by specific drugs affecting either actin microfilaments or microtubules. The Love-wave sensor directly measures cell/substrate bonds via acoustic damping and provides 2D kinetic and affinity parameters. Other studies have applied the QCM sensor as a diagnostic tool for leukaemia and, potentially, for chemotherapeutic agents. Acoustic sensors have also been used in the evaluation of the cytocompatibility of artificial surfaces and, in general, they have the potential to become powerful tools for even more diverse cellular analysis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acoustics*
  • Animals
  • Biosensing Techniques / instrumentation*
  • Cell Adhesion
  • Cytoskeleton
  • Humans
  • Polymers / chemistry
  • Quartz Crystal Microbalance Techniques
  • Surface Properties


  • Polymers