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Using a self-invented microscope, Robert Hooke noticed that the tissue formed by small cavities separated by walls looked like small rooms and that is why he decided to call them “cells”. Since the 18th century, those “small rooms” have been carefully and meticulously studied. They have never stopped intriguing researchers and, although we have been discovered plenty about cells, there still is a lot to learn.

Today, monitoring cell growth is of great interest to researchers, especially in fields in which it is necessary to precisely assess cellular growth during when cells are exposed to specific substances (i.e., drugs).

A group of researchers from Sapienza University, coordinated by Professor Fabrizio Frezza from the Department of Information Engineering, Electronics and Telecommunications, has demonstrated that it is possible to determine the number of cells in a culture in real-time by using an external electromagnetic sensor.

Exposing cell cultures to electromagnetic fields with a low radiofrequency allows continuous monitoring without having to remove or insert biological markers in the cell, but only using sensors without interfering with the cell culture for the entire experimental procedure.

This innovative technique is extremely important in space, where the available experimental systems only involve automatized operations,” explains Professor Fabrizio Frezza, “And although this method has been conceived for space applications, it can prove interesting in all our labs, where the measurement of cell growth in real-time is necessary.”

The research was funded by the Italian Space Agency (ASI) as part of the grant for the “3D Evaluation Techniques for the Growth and Morphology of Cells in Micro-gravity Conditions through Electromagnetic Diffraction” Project, coordinated by Fabrizio Frezza (Sapienza Department of Information Engineering, Electronics and Telecommunications and the Sapienza Aerospace Research Centre) in collaboration with researchers Marco Muzi, Fabio Mangini, Nicola Tedeschi Diet and Alessandro Palombo from the Experimental Medicine Department.

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