Sound Waves Can Now Replace Human Hands in Petri Dish Experiments

Sound Waves Can Now Replace Human Hands in Petri Dish Experiments

Petri dish experiments have led to several discoveries for science but recent research can make the whole process much better. How?

Researchers from Duke University have demonstrated a set of three prototypes for manipulating particles and cells in a Petri dish using sound waves which means you don’t need to use your hands anymore.

The paper describing this system appeared recently in journal Science Advances

This new system belongs to a class of devices known as ‘acoustic tweezers,’ in the scientific community. Though such devices are not new, they required lots of equipment and training on the part of the researchers using them. The current system tries to reduce the entry barrier and to give more and more labs the access to using sound waves in petri dish experiments.

“Recent advances have led to many advanced, versatile tools,” Tony Jun Huang, co-author of the study, said in a statement. “However, at the end of the day, the success of this field depends on whether end-users such as biologists, chemists, or clinicians are willing to adopt this technology or not. This paper demonstrates a step toward a much friendlier workflow to make it easier for end-users to adopt this technology.”

Another problem with petri dish which is that physically touching it can disturb results and acoustic tweezers can solve this problem as well.

Three proof of concept experimental setups that use acoustic tweezers in Petri dishes. From left to right, a standing pattern for sorting, a whirlpool for concentrating, and high-frequency beam-like waves for concentration and stimulation. (Credits: Jun Huang/Duke University)

So, Huang and his colleagues demonstrate three prototype setups that use transducers to create sound waves that manipulate particles in petri dish. Let us look at the three prototypes:

  1. In the first system, the team used a set of four transducers one on each side of the Petri dish. These transducers create sound waves that interact with one another to create a standing pattern within the dish’s liquid sample. The setup could be used for multi-configuration cell patterning, cell-cell interaction studies and the construction of 3D tissues.
  2. The second design uses a tilted transducer sending an angled sound wave from beneath the Petri dish to create a whirlpool that concentrates the dish’s contents in the center. This ability would allow researchers to concentrate bioparticles for signal enhancement and the construction of large cell spheroids.
  3. In the third setup, holographic interdigital transducers (two transducers fitted together like a zipper) create high-frequency beam-like waves from below the Petri dish to control particles in specific locations. By switching between different designs, the setup can stimulate cells as well as a concentrate and trap bioparticles.

Huang and team plan to make this system commercially available so that labs all over the world can use it in potential applications including patterning and printing cells, separating and sorting cells, controlling cell-cell interactions, constructing tissues and rotating multicellular organisms.

Journal Reference:
Zhenhua Tian, Zeyu Wang, Peiran Zhang, Ty Downing Naquin, John Mai, Yuqi Wu, Shujie Yang, Yuyang Gu, Hunter Bachman, Yaosi Liang, Zhiming Yu, Tony Jun Huang. Generating multifunctional acoustic tweezers in Petri dishes for contactless, precise manipulation of bioparticles. Science Advances, 2020; 6 (37): eabb0494 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abb0494

Press Release: Duke University

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