Ultrafast imaging of cell elasticity with optical microelastography

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2018 Jan 30;115(5):861-866. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1713395115. Epub 2018 Jan 16.


Elasticity is a fundamental cellular property that is related to the anatomy, functionality, and pathological state of cells and tissues. However, current techniques based on cell deformation, atomic force microscopy, or Brillouin scattering are rather slow and do not always accurately represent cell elasticity. Here, we have developed an alternative technique by applying shear wave elastography to the micrometer scale. Elastic waves were mechanically induced in live mammalian oocytes using a vibrating micropipette. These audible frequency waves were observed optically at 200,000 frames per second and tracked with an optical flow algorithm. Whole-cell elasticity was then mapped using an elastography method inspired by the seismology field. Using this approach we show that the elasticity of mouse oocytes is decreased when the oocyte cytoskeleton is disrupted with cytochalasin B. The technique is fast (less than 1 ms for data acquisition), precise (spatial resolution of a few micrometers), able to map internal cell structures, and robust and thus represents a tractable option for interrogating biomechanical properties of diverse cell types.

Keywords: cell biomechanics; cell biophysics; cell elasticity imaging; elastography imaging; shear wave imaging.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Animals
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Computer Simulation
  • Elastic Modulus
  • Elasticity / physiology*
  • Elasticity Imaging Techniques / instrumentation
  • Elasticity Imaging Techniques / methods*
  • Female
  • Finite Element Analysis
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods
  • Mice
  • Models, Biological
  • Oocytes / cytology
  • Oocytes / physiology
  • Vibration