Adhesion is a critical cellular process that contributes to migration, apoptosis, differentiation, and division. It is followed by the redistribution of cellular materials at the cell membrane or at the cell-surface interface for cells interacting with surfaces, such as basement membranes. Dynamic and quantitative tracking of changes in cell adhesion mass redistribution is challenging because cells are rapidly moving, inhomogeneous, and nonequilibrium objects, whose physical and mechanical properties are difficult to measure or predict. Here, we report a novel biosensor based microscopy approach termed Photonic Crystal Enhanced Microscopy (PCEM) that enables the movement of cellular materials at the plasma membrane of individual live cells to be dynamically monitored and quantitatively imaged. PCEM utilizes a photonic crystal biosensor surface, which can be coated with arbitrary extracellular matrix materials to facilitate cellular interactions, within a modified brightfield microscope with a low intensity non-coherent light source. Benefiting from the high sensitivity, narrow resonance peak, and tight spatial confinement of the evanescent field atop the photonic crystal biosensor, PCEM enables label-free live cell imaging with high sensitivity and high lateral and axial spatial-resolution, thereby allowing dynamic adhesion phenotyping of single cells without the use of fluorescent tags or stains. We apply PCEM to investigate adhesion and the early stage migration of different types of stem cells and cancer cells. By applying image processing algorithms to analyze the complex spatiotemporal information generated by PCEM, we offer insight into how the plasma membrane of anchorage dependent cells is dynamically organized during cell adhesion. The imaging and analysis results presented here provide a new tool for biologists to gain a deeper understanding of the fundamental mechanisms involved with cell adhesion and concurrent or subsequent migration events.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalProgress in Quantum Electronics
StatePublished - Nov 1 2016


  • Cancer Cell
  • Cell Membrane-associated Effective Mass Density
  • Label-free Imaging
  • Live Cell Imaging
  • Mass Density (MD)
  • Peak Wavelength Shift (PWS)
  • Peak Wavelength Value (PWV)
  • Photonic Crystal (PC)
  • Photonic Crystal Biosensor
  • Photonic Crystal Enhanced Microscopy (PCEM)
  • Photonic Crystal Slab
  • Refractive Index (RI)
  • Stem Cell

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistical and Nonlinear Physics
  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


Dive into the research topics of 'Quantitative imaging of cell membrane-associated effective mass density using Photonic Crystal Enhanced Microscopy (PCEM)'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this