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Biomolecules 2019, 9(1), 23;

Bio-Molecular Applications of Recent Developments in Optical Tweezers

Department of Physics, Informatics and Mathematics, University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, 41125 Modena, Italy
Center S3, CNR Institute Nanoscience, Via Campi 213/A, 41125 Modena, Italy
Istituto Statale di Istruzione Superiore “Leonardo da Vinci”, Via del Terzolle 91, 50127 Firenze, Italy
Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare, Sezione di Firenze, Via Giovanni Sansone 1, 50019 Sesto Fiorentino, Italy
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
These authors contributed equally to the work.
Received: 23 November 2018 / Revised: 2 January 2019 / Accepted: 2 January 2019 / Published: 11 January 2019
PDF [3111 KB, uploaded 11 January 2019]


In the past three decades, the ability to optically manipulate biomolecules has spurred a new era of medical and biophysical research. Optical tweezers (OT) have enabled experimenters to trap, sort, and probe cells, as well as discern the structural dynamics of proteins and nucleic acids at single molecule level. The steady improvement in OT’s resolving power has progressively pushed the envelope of their applications; there are, however, some inherent limitations that are prompting researchers to look for alternatives to the conventional techniques. To begin with, OT are restricted by their one-dimensional approach, which makes it difficult to conjure an exhaustive three-dimensional picture of biological systems. The high-intensity trapping laser can damage biological samples, a fact that restricts the feasibility of in vivo applications. Finally, direct manipulation of biological matter at nanometer scale remains a significant challenge for conventional OT. A significant amount of literature has been dedicated in the last 10 years to address the aforementioned shortcomings. Innovations in laser technology and advances in various other spheres of applied physics have been capitalized upon to evolve the next generation OT systems. In this review, we elucidate a few of these developments, with particular focus on their biological applications. The manipulation of nanoscopic objects has been achieved by means of plasmonic optical tweezers (POT), which utilize localized surface plasmons to generate optical traps with enhanced trapping potential, and photonic crystal optical tweezers (PhC OT), which attain the same goal by employing different photonic crystal geometries. Femtosecond optical tweezers (fs OT), constructed by replacing the continuous wave (cw) laser source with a femtosecond laser, promise to greatly reduce the damage to living samples. Finally, one way to transcend the one-dimensional nature of the data gained by OT is to couple them to the other large family of single molecule tools, i.e., fluorescence-based imaging techniques. We discuss the distinct advantages of the aforementioned techniques as well as the alternative experimental perspective they provide in comparison to conventional OT. View Full-Text
Keywords: plasmonic optical tweezers; femtosecond optical tweezers; photonic crystal optical tweezers; fluorescence; single molecule and cell studies plasmonic optical tweezers; femtosecond optical tweezers; photonic crystal optical tweezers; fluorescence; single molecule and cell studies

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Choudhary, D.; Mossa, A.; Jadhav, M.; Cecconi, C. Bio-Molecular Applications of Recent Developments in Optical Tweezers. Biomolecules 2019, 9, 23.

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