Micro scalpel offers unprecedented precision

 作者:文鲜     |      日期:2019-03-02 11:18:01
By Karen Schmidt CUTTING things up to see how they work has a long, if gruesome, tradition in medicine. In the UK, early anatomists sliced open the corpses of executed criminals and grave-robbed cadavers to get a look at what was inside. Others performed surgery on living animals – slitting here, removing an organ there – to figure out which parts were vital, which merely useful, and what they all did. Thanks to these knife-wielding researchers, we know volumes about how the body works – but only down to a certain level. At the microscopic scale, it’s a different story. The cooperative workings of nerve cells, say, or the capillaries in the brain, are largely mysterious. Our knives are too crude to work on such tiny things. What if we had a scalpel small enough to dissect this micro world? Wish granted. A new tool for performing delicate surgery on individual cells is opening up a new biological world. It can precisely cut or remove parts of a cell without killing the cell itself. With its help, we can measure the tension and elasticity of a cell’s own framework – features that can cause disease when they go wrong. We can unravel mysteries about the intricate and dynamic network of molecules inside cells that governs their behaviour and often breaks down in illnesses such as cancer. What’s more,