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Ablation of cytoskeletal filaments and mitochondria in live cells using a femtosecond laser nanoscissor

Nan Shen1,2, Dabajyoti Datta1, Chris B. Schaffer1,3,4,5, Eric Mazur1,6

Department of Physics and Division of Engineering and AppliedScience, Harvard University
Current address: Physical Biosciences Institute, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Current address: Department of Physics, University of California, San Diego
Vascular Biology Program, Departments of Pathology & Surgery, Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School
Current address: Department of Mechanical Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University
To whom the correspondence should be addressed. E-mail address:

Molecular & Cellular Biomechanics 2005, 2(1), 17-26.


Analysis of cell regulation requires methods for perturbing molecular processes within living cells with spatial discrimination on the nanometer-scale. We present a technique for ablating molecular structures in living cells using low-repetition rate, low-energy femtosecond laser pulses. By tightly focusing these pulses beneath the cell membrane, we ablate cellular material inside the cell through nonlinear processes. We selectively removed sub-micrometer regions of the cytoskeleton and individual mitochondria without altering neighboring structures or compromising cell viability. This nanoscissor technique enables non-invasive manipulation of the structural machinery of living cells with several-hundred-nanometer resolution. Using this approach, we unequivocally demonstrate that mitochondria are structurally independent functional units, and do not form a continuous network as suggested by some past studies.


Cite This Article

Shen, N., Datta, D., Schaffer, C. B., Mazur, E. (2005). Ablation of cytoskeletal filaments and mitochondria in live cells using a femtosecond laser nanoscissor. Molecular & Cellular Biomechanics, 2(1), 17–26.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License , which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
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