FACS-style detection for real-time cell viscoelastic cytometry†
Cell mechanical properties have been established as a label-free biophysical marker of cell viability and health; however, real-time methods with significant throughput for accurately and non-destructively measuring these properties remain widely unavailable. Without appropriate labels for use with fluorescence activated cell sorters (FACS), easily implemented real-time technology for tracking cell-level mechanical properties remains a current need. Employing modulated optical forces and enabled by a low-dimensional FACS-style detection method introduced here, we present a viscoelasticity cytometer (VC) capable of real-time and continuous measurements. We demonstrate the utility of this approach by tracking the high-frequency cell physical properties of populations of chemically-modified cells at rates of ∼1 s−1 and explain observations within the context of a simple theoretical model.