Thursday, November 10, 2005
A Year of Physics Colloquium, North Carolina A&T State University (Greensboro, NC)
We use femtosecond laser pulses to manipulate sub-cellular structures inside live and fixed cells. Using only a few nanojoules of laser pulse energy, we are able to selectively disrupt individual mitochondria in live bovine capillary epithelial cells, and cleave single actin fibers in the cell cytoskeleton network of fixed human fibro-blast cells. We have also used the technique to micromanipulate the neural network of C. Elegans, a small nematode. Our laser scalpel can snip individual axons without causing any damage to surrounding tissue, allowing us to study the function of individual neurons with a precision that was not achievable before.