Ultrashort femtosecond laser pulses constitute a very accurate and selective cutting tool, with minimum collateral effect. The dynamics of the mitotic spindle were investigated by femtosecond laser nanosurgery. The spindle (left) is a cellular structure strongly involved in the cell division process. Femtosecond laser pulses selectively cut microtubules in the spindle (middle). The rapid disassembly and re-assembly of the microtubules following the cut contain key information on the biophysics of the spindle. In particular, the analysis of the depolymerization rate as function of the cut position (right) allowed determination of the distribution of lengths of the microtubules.
David A. Weitz (Physics & Applied Physics)
Cynthia M. Friend (SEAS)
Jan Brugues, and
Harvard MRSEC (DMR-0820484)