While doing research at the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory in Massachusetts, Sindy Tang learned of a remarkable organism: Stentor coeruleus. It’s a single-celled, free-living freshwater organism, shaped like a trumpet and big enough to see with the naked eye. And, to Tang’s amazement, if cut in half it can heal itself into two healthy cells.
Tang, who is an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Stanford University, knew right away that she had to study this incredible ability. “It is one of the Holy Grails of engineering to make self-healing materials and machines,” she said. “A single cell is analogous to a spacecraft – both have to figure out how to repair damage without anyone’s help from the outside.”
But before they could pursue that Holy Grail, Tang and fellow researchers needed a way to efficiently slice the cell in two — traditional methods take three minutes per cell and they needed hundreds for their experiments. To that end, they developed a new tool that is essentially an assembly line guillotine for cells. This device, detailed in the June 27 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, pushes a row of cells down a tight channel onto a pointed knife blade, which cuts the cells evenly in half. This guillotine cuts Stentor cells 200 times faster than the previous method with similar survival rates. Read more …
Source: Scientists Create Cellular Guillotine for Studying Single-Cell Wound Repair | Scicasts (adapted from a Stanford University news release).