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Using buoyant mass to measure the growth of single cells


We used a suspended microchannel resonator (SMR) combined with picoliter-scale microfluidic control to measure buoyant mass and determine the 'instantaneous' growth rates of individual cells. The SMR measures mass with femtogram precision, allowing rapid determination of the growth rate in a fraction of a complete cell cycle. We found that for individual cells of Bacillus subtilis, Escherichia coli, Saccharomyces cerevisiae and mouse lymphoblasts, heavier cells grew faster than lighter cells.

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Figure 1: Dynamic trapping of single cells.
Figure 2: Growth rate versus initial buoyant mass.
Figure 3: B. subtilis cell trapped for a period similar to the cell cycle duration.


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Funding was provided by EUREKA (R01GM085457) and a Center for Cell Decision Process Grant (P50GM68762) from the US National Institute of Health and by an Institute for Collaborative Biotechnologies Grant (DAAD1903D0004) from the US Army Research Office. M.G. acknowledges support from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. F.F.D. acknowledges support from Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia, Portugal, through a graduate fellowship (SFRH/BD/47736/2008). Devices were fabricated at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Microsystems Technology Laboratory and at Innovative Micro Technologies.

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Authors and Affiliations



M.G. developed the trapping method, F.F.D. developed the model, M.G. and F.F.D. conducted experiments on bacteria, W.H.G. and A.K.B. adapted the method and conducted experiments on yeast, and S.S. adapted the method and conducted experiments on mouse lymphoblasts. K.P. fabricated the devices used for experiments on mouse lymphoblasts. All authors contributed to designing of the experiments and writing of the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Scott R Manalis.

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Competing interests

S.R.M. is a co-founder of Affinity Biosensors and declares competing financial interests.

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Supplementary Figures 1–8, Supplementary Tables 1–5 and Supplementary Note (PDF 1761 kb)

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Godin, M., Delgado, F., Son, S. et al. Using buoyant mass to measure the growth of single cells. Nat Methods 7, 387–390 (2010).

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