SW-4-3-2: Automated quantification of growth mechanics of living plant cells in situ using microrobotics

Dimitris Felekis, Bradley J. Nelson, ETH Zurich, Switzerland


Microrobotic systems and methods have been reported for cell injection, mechanical characterization and handling of mouse oocytes and embryos, zebrafish embryos, HeLa cells, and stem cells, ex vivo. In addition, the biomechanics of biological organisms such as Drosophila melanogaster and Caenorhabditis elegans have been investigated with the aid of microrobotics. As molecular biology shifts toward understanding the mechanics of growth of individual living and growing cells as a unit and as a part of an organ or tissue, the need arises to characterize mechanical properties at the cellular level in situ. The challenge for microroboticists is to develop systems capable of identifying the changing morphology of a cell and the effect this change has on the growth of its host organ. It is also important to accurately quantify the mechanical properties of key structural elements of cells for input to mathematical models of growth. In this talk the achievements of our past work on microrobotics for life sciences will be presented. Our current research in developing automated microrobotic systems capable of measuring the membrane stiffness of individual plant cells is discussed as well as the challenges we have encountered so far.

Speaker Biography

Dimitris Felekis (S’09) received the Diploma degree in Mechanical Engineering from University of Thessaly, Volos, Greece in 2005 and the M.S. degree in Automation and Robotics from the National Technical University of Athens, Athens, Greece in 2007. In 2009 he joined the Swiss federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland where he is currently working toward the Ph.D. degree in the Institute of Robotics and Intelligent Systems, focusing on the development of microrobotic systems for studying the growth mechanics of living plant cells in situ.

Bradley J. Nelson (M’90–SM’06) received the B.S.M.E. degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, Urbana, in 1984, the M.S.M.E. degree from the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, in 1987, and the Ph.D. degree in robotics from the School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA, in 1995.
He was an Engineer with Honeywell and Motorola and served as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer in Botswana, Africa. He became an Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois, Chicago, in 1995, and an Associate Professor at the University of Minnesota in 1998. Since 2002, he has been a Professor at the Institute of Robotics and Intelligent Systems, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland. His most recent scientific contributions have been in the areas of microrobotics, biomicrorobotics, and nanorobotics, including efforts in robotic micromanipulation, microassembly, microelectromechanical systems (sensors and actuators), mechanical manipulation of biological cells and tissue, and nanoelectromechanical systems. He has also contributed to the fields of visual servoing, force control, sensor integration, and Web-based control and programming of robots. Dr. Nelson has been a member of several editorial boards, including the IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON      ROBOTICS,   the IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON NANOTECHNOLOGY, and the IEEE Robotics and Automation Magazine