G. Popescu, T. Ikeda, K. Goda, C. A. Best-Popescu, M. L. Laposata, S. Manley, R. R. Dasari, K. Badizadegan, and M. S. Feld, Optical measurement of cell membrane tension, Phys. Rev. Lett., 97, 218101 (2006).

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Using a novel noncontact technique based on optical interferometry, we quantify the nanoscale thermal fluctuations of red blood cells (RBCs) and giant unilamellar vesicles (GUVs). The measurements reveal a nonvanishing tension coefficient for RBCs, which increases as cells transition from a discocytic shape to a spherical shape. The tension coefficient measured for GUVs is, however, a factor of 4–24 smaller. By contrast, the bending moduli for cells and vesicles have similar values. This is consistent with the cytoskeleton confinement model, in which the cytoskeleton inhibits membrane fluctuations [Gov et al., Phys. Rev. Lett. 90, 228101, (2003)].