Front Bioeng Biotechnol. 2022 Jul 5;10:916354. doi: 10.3389/fbioe.2022.916354. eCollection 2022.
Microrheology encompasses a range of methods to measure the mechanical properties of soft materials. By characterizing the motion of embedded microscopic particles, microrheology extends the probing length scale and frequency range of conventional bulk rheology. Microrheology can be characterized into either passive or active methods based on the driving force exerted on probe particles. Tracer particles are driven by thermal energy in passive methods, applying minimal deformation to the assessed medium. In active techniques, particles are manipulated by an external force, most commonly produced through optical and magnetic fields. Small-scale rheology holds significant advantages over conventional bulk rheology, such as eliminating the need for large sample sizes, the ability to probe fragile materials non-destructively, and a wider probing frequency range. More importantly, some microrheological techniques can obtain spatiotemporal information of local microenvironments and accurately describe the heterogeneity of structurally complex fluids. Recently, there has been significant growth in using these minimally invasive techniques to investigate a wide range of biomedical systems both in vitro and in vivo. Here, we review the latest applications and advancements of microrheology in mammalian cells, tissues, and biofluids and discuss the current challenges and potential future advances on the horizon.