Fiber Optic Probe and Method for Optical Trapping, Ablation, Excitation and Detection of Microscopic Objects
Background: Manipulation of microscopic objects by laser methods has been used since the 1970s. Both laser tweezers (used to hold microscopic objects in place) and optical scissors (used to conduct delicate surgery on the object in question) allow the scientists and engineers to perform minimally invasive manipulation of micro/nano objects which include single molecule, living cells and their organelles. Further, changing properties of light beam (e.g. circular polarization), the optical tweezers could enable rotation of microscopic objects. Further, use of multiple beam geometries (such as two counter-propagating beams from two optical fibers) has enabled stretching of biological cells and measurement of viscoelastic properties. Similarly, laser microbeam has been used for variety of applications such as optoporation of genetic material into cells, zonal drilling for reproductive medicine to rapid cellular lysis. Technology: Researchers at the University of California, Irvine have developed a fiber optic probe that allows the optoporation, micro-dissection, and lysis of cells at very large depths where the conventional bulky microscope objective cannot reach. In addition, the fiber-optic probe is capable of in-depth trapping, stretching and rotation of microscopic objects such as cells. This was made possible by micro-shaping the fiber tip and use of different laser beam properties (such as mode of operation, intensity and polarization etc). Therefore, now in addition to trapping of cells (and even other non-living objects) at large depths using the single fiber tweezers, laser microbeam irradiation for ablation or excitation through the same fiber is possible. The same fiber-optic probe can detect backscattered/ fluorescence from the micro-manipulated region probing dynamic change in the micromanipulated sample. Application: Applications of the above referenced invention include: Fiber-optic scissors for: (1) dissection of cells (e.g. neuronal axotomy); (2) rapid cellular lysis; (3) micro-surgery of the protective zona pellucida of ova for use in reproductive medicine; and (4) optoporation of exogenous materials into targeted cells. This device can enhance the capabilities of fiber-optic tweezers for (1) cell stretching for measurement of viscoelastic properties and disease diagnosis; (2) controlled axonal growth guidance in nerve cells; (3) near-field trapping; (4) organization and rotation of microscopic objects and (5) detection of backscattered/fluorescence light from the micro-manipulated sample. In contrast to the short working distance of the high numerical aperture microscopes, optical tweezers and scissors based on a single optical fiber will enable micromanipulation at much greater depths and open up new avenues for biophysics and nanoscience research.
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