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The nano-mechanics of phagocytosis

Background: Phagocytosis is a central mechanism in our immune system used by cells, e.g. macrophages, to take up bacteria and other particles. This uptake can decide on life or death of a cell or a whole organism. .

Problem: The interaction of the cytoskeleton and the molecular motors driving the uptake by the cell is not fully understood. Despite large biochemical knowledge, the origin of the forces and the fluctuating energies leading to the uptake by molecular self-organization need to be understood in much more detail.

Approach: We use 3D optical trapping and tracking of one micron sized polystyrene particles and approach them to the cell periphery. We drive different perturbations patterns to induce various responses of the cell to take up the particle. Temporal and spatial analysis of the particle fluctuations at 1 MHz reveal biophysical processes on a molecular scale.

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