Noninvasive monitoring of single-cell mechanics by acoustic scattering
The monitoring of mechanics in a single cell throughout the cell cycle has been hampered by the invasiveness of mechanical measurements. Here we quantify mechanical properties via acoustic scattering of waves from a cell inside a fluid-filled vibrating cantilever with a temporal resolution of < 1 min. Through simulations, experiments with hydrogels and the use of chemically perturbed cells, we show that our readout, the size-normalized acoustic scattering (SNACS), measures stiffness. To demonstrate the noninvasiveness of SNACS over successive cell cycles, we used measurements that resulted in deformations of < 15 nm. The cells maintained constant SNACS throughout interphase but showed dynamic changes during mitosis. Our work provides a basis for understanding how growing cells maintain mechanical integrity, and demonstrates that acoustic scattering can be used to noninvasively probe subtle and transient dynamics.