Optical Nanofiber 'Hears' Bacteria Swim, Cancer Cells Move

At the macroscopic level that’s familiar to us, birds chirp, whales sing and we talk. But at the microscopic level, our cells pulsate, bacteria swim and pressure waves ripple on a scale we can’t reach.

UC San Diego engineers have developed a tool to access that realm: an optical nanofiber that deforms in response to ultra-minute forces, sending patterns of light detectable by a microscope.

With this device, subtle motions of cells associated with biological processes, said Donald Sirbuly, a UCSD nanoengineering professor who led the study that created the instrument. 

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