Optical trapping is a powerful tool in Life Science research and is becoming common place in many microscopy laboratories and facilities. There is a growing need to directly trap the cells of interest rather than introduce beads to the sample that can affect the fundamental biological functions of the sample and impact on the very properties the user wishes to observe and measure. However, instabilities while tracking large inhomogeneous objects, such as cells, can make tracking position, calibrating trap strength and making reliable measurements challenging. These instabilities often manifest themselves as cell roll or re-orientation and can occur as a result of viscous drag forces and thermal convection, as well as spontaneously due to Brownian forces. In this paper we discuss and mathematically model the cause of this roll and present several experimental approaches for tackling these issues, including using a novel beam profile consisting of three closely spaced traps and tracking a trapped object by analysing fluorescence images. The approaches presented here trap T cells which form part of the adaptive immune response system, but in principle can be applied to a wide range of samples where the size and inhomogeneous nature of the trapped object can hinder particle tracking experiments.
- optical trapping
- trapped live cells