Remote opto-acoustic probing of single-cell adhesion on metallic surfaces



The reflection of picosecond ultrasonic pulses from a cell-substrate interface is used to probe cell-biomaterial adhesion with a subcell resolution. We culture monocytes on top of a thin biocompatible Ti metal film, supported by a transparent sapphire substrate. Low-energy femtosecond pump laser pulses are focused at the bottom of the Ti film to a micron spot. The subsequent ultrafast thermal expansion launches a longitudinal acoustic pulse in Ti, with a broad spectrum extending up to 100 GHz. We measure the acoustic echoes reflected from the Ti-cell interface through the transient optical reflectance changes. The time-frequency analysis of the reflected acoustic pulses gives access to a map of the cell acoustic impedance Zc and to a map of the film-cell interfacial stiffness K simultaneously. Variations in Zc across the cell are attributed to rigidity and density fluctuations within the cell, whereas variations in K are related to interfacial intermolecular forces and to the nano-architecture of the transmembrane bonds. (© 2014 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim)