About this Research Topic
Light is so ingrained into the way we conduct our daily lives we scarcely consider it. Yet as scientific knowledge continues to grow, the importance of light-based technologies becomes ever more apparent. In recent years, optical technologies have formed the basis of many new areas of exploration, and none more so than in the area of the biosciences. Contrary to common perception, optical technologies have been used not only to image cellular processes and other biological phenomena but also as physical sensors, actuators, and tools to probe biology in ways never previously imagined.
In 2019, Arthur Ashkin gained the Nobel Prize for his work on optical tweezers and their application to biological systems. The award recognized the place that photonic technologies have taken in biomedical research. Rather than using light as a passive sensor, optical tweezers utilize light’s momentum as a way of creating forces at micron and submicron length scales. The use of light in this way has enabled the fine-scale manipulation of viruses and bacteria as well as single cells and their internal organelles. Though understanding of radiometric forces dates back to Maxwell and Bartoli, it is only recently that laser technology, engineering and computational systems have enabled the precise application of these forces. Other technologies have also been enabled by this growth in technological sophistication. The development of the laser has enabled photoablation technologies, such as laser cutting, to be performed at the cellular level. In fact, laser nanosurgery (laser scissors) has enabled scientists to dissect single cells and organelles as small as an individual chromosome under the microscope. Such is the impact of this technology that another Nobel Prize in 2002 was given to Mark Sulston and Sydney Brenner at the MRC (London) for their laser nanoablation and subsequent fate-mapping of every cell in the developing embryo of C. elegans. Such tools as laser tweezers (optical trapping) and laser scissors (laser nanosurgery) give scientists the ability to disrupt, manipulate, and study cellular processes and to investigate cellular functions.
Thermal and absorptive properties of light have also been utilized for biological manipulation and control over cellular function – they add to a growing arsenal of photonic technologies which exploit light’s physical properties to interrogate the natural world. Many such systems have been used in concert with other optical technologies, such as Raman spectroscopy or fluorescence imaging. The use of laser scissors and optical traps in combination with other biophotonic systems also exist to harvest specific biophysical information such as viscosity, mass or adhesion of proteins or biomolecules. These technologies and others open a window into the mechanobiology of the living organisms. We envision a Research Topic of Frontiers in Physics/Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology consisting of research and review articles based on these new technological developments, with the focus on the application of biophotonic technologies to biological systems.
Original research articles and review articles are solicited in the following biophotonic areas:
- Physics and engineering of optical traps.
- Physics and engineering of laser nanoablation (scissors).
- Application of optical traps and/or nanoablation to study cell and tissue function.
- Optical manipulation of cells and organelles.
- Optical studies on biomechanics and mechanobiology.
- Single and multiple optical traps in cell manipulation.
- Measurement and characterization of cell viscosity.
- Optical studies on molecular motors.
- Nanoablation (scissors) for fate-mapping of developmental systems.
- Mechanisms of photon interaction at the micro- and nano-scale.
- Optical torques using circular polarized light.
Keywords: optical tweezers and scissors, nanophotonics, microbeams, cell mechanics, biophotonics
Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.