Extracting, quantifying, and comparing dynamical and biomechanical properties of living matter through single particle tracking
A panoply of new tools for tracking single particles and molecules has led to an explosion of experimental data, leading to novel insights into physical properties of living matter governing cellular development and function, health and disease. In this Perspective, we present tools to investigate the dynamics and mechanics of living systems from the molecular to cellular scale via single-particle techniques. In particular, we focus on methods to measure, interpret, and analyse complex data sets that are associated with forces, materials properties, transport, and emergent organisation phenomena within biological and soft-matter systems. Current approaches, challenges, and existing solutions in the associated fields are outlined in order to support the growing community of researchers at the interface of physics and the life sciences. Each section focuses not only on the general physical principles and the potential for understanding living matter, but also on details of practical data extraction and analysis, discussing limitations, interpretation, and comparison across different experimental realisations and theoretical frameworks. Particularly relevant results are introduced as examples. While this Perspective describes living matter from a physical perspective, highlighting experimental and theoretical physics techniques relevant for such systems, it is also meant to serve as a solid starting point for researchers in the life sciences interested in the implementation of biophysical methods.
- This article is part of the themed collection: 2023 PCCP Reviews