With the aid of a tiny device that works like the needle on the arm of a record player, a scientist has pumped up the sounds made by tiny proteins zipping around inside a yeast cell. The discovery is driving the development of a new tool that may allow doctors to detect diseases like cancer by listening to the sounds of their patients’ bodies, said James Gimzewski, a biochemistry professor at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Gimzewski discovered cell sounds using a device called an atomic force microscope. But he says the name is a misnomer. “It’s not a microscope that you look through a lens to see something … [I]t’s kind of a paradigm shift in a way, from looking at things to a form of feeling them,” he said. The device has a very sharp tip that is attached to a spring, like the needle on a record player.