Brian D. Patchett –
Natalie C. Sullivan –
Timothy E. Doyle –

Department of Physics
Utah Valley University
800 West University Parkway, MS 179
Orem, Utah 84058

Popular version of paper 3pBA5, “Acoustic Levitation Device for Probing Biological Cells With High-Frequency Ultrasound”
Presented Wednesday afternoon, November 4, 2015
170th ASA Meeting, Jacksonville

Imagine a new medical advancement that would allow scientists to measure the physical characteristics of diseased cells involved in cancer, Alzheimer’s, and autoimmune diseases. Through the use of high-frequency ultrasonic waves, such an advancement will allow scientists to test the normal healthy range of virtually any cell type for density and stiffness, providing new capabilities for analyzing healthy cell development as well as insight into the changes that occur as diseases develop and the cells’ characteristics begin to change.

Prior research methods of probing cells with ultrasound have relied upon growing the cells on the bottom of a Petri dish, which distorts not only the cells’ shape and structure, butlso interfere with the ultrasonic signals. A new method was therefore needed to probe the cells without disturbing their natural form, and to “clean up” the signals received by the ultrasound device. Research presented at the 2015 ASA meeting in Jacksonville Florida will show that the use of acoustic levitation is effective in providing the ideal conditions for probing the cells.

Acoustic levitation is a phenomenon whereby pressure differences of stationary sound waves can be used to suspend small objects in gases or fluids such as air or water. We are currently exploring a new frontier in acoustic levitation of cellular structures in a fluid medium by perfecting a method by which we can manipulate the shape and frequency of sound waves inside of special containers. By manipulating these sound waves in just the right fashion it is possible to isolate a layer of cells in a fluid such as water, which can then be probed with an ultrasound device. The cells are then in a more natural form and environment, and the interference from the floor of the Petri dish is no longer a hindrance.

This method has proven effective in the laboratory with buoyancy neutral beads that are roughly the same size and shape as human blood cells, and a study is currently underway to test the effectiveness of this method with biological samples. If effective, this will give researchers new experimental methods by which to study cellular processes, thus leading to a better understanding of the development of certain diseases in the human body.

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