OptoRheo: Simultaneous in situ micro-mechanical sensing and imaging of live 3D biological systems

Tania Mendonca*, Katarzyna Lis-Slimak, Andrew B. Matheson, Matthew G. Smith, Akosua B. Anane-Adjei, Jennifer C. Ashworth, Robert Cavanagh, Lynn Paterson, Paul A. Dalgarno, Cameron Alexander, Manlio Tassieri, Catherine L. R. Merry, Amanda J. Wright

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
62 Downloads (Pure)


Biomechanical cues from the extracellular matrix (ECM) are essential for directing many cellular processes, from normal development and repair, to disease progression. To better understand cell-matrix interactions, we have developed a new instrument named ‘OptoRheo’ that combines light sheet fluorescence microscopy with particle tracking microrheology. OptoRheo lets us image cells in 3D as they proliferate over several days while simultaneously sensing the mechanical properties of the surrounding extracellular and pericellular matrix at a sub-cellular length scale. OptoRheo can be used in two operational modalities (with and without an optical trap) to extend the dynamic range of microrheology measurements. We corroborated this by characterising the ECM surrounding live breast cancer cells in two distinct culture systems, cell clusters in 3D hydrogels and spheroids in suspension culture. This cutting-edge instrument will transform the exploration of drug transport through complex cell culture matrices and optimise the design of the next-generation of disease models.
Original languageEnglish
Article number463
JournalCommunications Biology
Publication statusPublished - 28 Apr 2023


  • Cell Communication
  • Extracellular Matrix
  • Hydrogels
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)


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