Structural color generation within biological cells through an optically tunable nanostructured membrane

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At the time of archiving, the student author of this thesis opted to temporarily restrict access to it. The full text of this thesis will become available to the public after the expiration of the embargo on 2022-11-29.

The mapping of the refractive index of cells has been extensively studied since 1950s. This optical parameter constitutes a key biophysical property strongly correlated to fundamental cell parameters such, e.g., intracellular mass distribution and protein concentration. Experimental studies evidence that the cell refractive index (Refractive Index) provides critical insights to understand diverse cellular structures and interpret pathological states, including diverse stages of diseases. However, measuring the refractive indices of biological specimens satisfying clinical requirements is currently challenging, since there is a lack of spectral signatures of sub-cellular components in the visible range due to their transparent nature. Designing methods capable of extracting visible fingerprints of cellular components remains attracting large research interests. In this work, I have contributed to this project by fabricating and characterizing a black nanostructured membrane that dynamically interacts with cancerous cells and furnishes label-free structural color generation by exploiting the inherent contrast mechanisms of them. Thus, adequately meeting morphology differentiation to assist in biomedical research. I have tested the system with HCT116 colorectal cancer cells. In addition, this special membrane allows refractive index recovery and cell thickness mapping with commonly available bright-field microscopy equipment. Therefore, it is of considerable clinical importance to allow the generation of qualitative information about cell morphology to add in medicine and biophysics research.

Oliveira, B. N. M. (2021). Structural color generation within biological cells through an optically tunable nanostructured membrane. KAUST Research Repository.


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