Cited research: Biophys. J. doi:10.1016/j.bpj.2010.03.012 (2010)

A spinning microscope that uses centrifugal force to probe individual molecules may offer an alternative to more expensive tools used in single-molecule studies.

The 'centrifuge force microscope', developed by Ken Halvorsen and Wesley Wong at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, consists of a camera and objective fixed to an arm that rotates around one end. At the far end is a coverslip positioned perpendicularly to the applied centrifugal force. The molecule of interest tethers a bead to the coverslip. When the arm spins, the centrifugal force moves the bead away from the coverslip, stretching or even breaking the molecule, and the instrument measures these changes.

The authors say that the device can perform thousands of single-molecule experiments at once and could cost thousands of dollars less than conventional instruments. C.L.