Researchers in Basel have developed a scale for measuring the weight of living cells, and it is generating significant interest across several fields, including the pharmaceutical sector. The Basel-based company Nanosurf AG is already working to put the device into production.
Researchers at the University of Basel, the Basel-based Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering (D-BSSE) of ETH Zurich, and University College London have developed a novel cell scale. It not only enables them to measure the mass of living cells quickly and precisely, but also to monitor how their weight changes over time.
“We established that the weight of living cells fluctuates continuously by about one to four per cent as they regulate their total weight,” David Martínez-Martín, the main inventor of the cell scale, said in a statement. This fluctuation does not occur in dead cells.
“We’re seeing things that nobody else has yet observed,” added Gotthold Fläschner, who co-invented and conducted most of the experiments with the new scale.
The scale could be used in a wide range of applications. As Martínez-Martín explained: “A cell’s mass is a very good indicator of its physiology.”
The invention is of interest to biologists as well as the pharmaceutical industry, as it could be used to investigate the pathological growth of cells and how drugs influence this growth. Material scientists are also interested in the device. “For them, it’s about the functionalization of nanoparticles – in other words, changing the surface of very small particles,” explained Martínez-Martín.
Those interested won’t have to wait long for the new, patented weighing method. The licensee, the high-tech company Nanosurf AG from Liestal in the canton of Basel-Landschaft, is already working to put the device into production.