Spatial localization of signals is commonplace within cells and allows for a variety of integral biological processes, including cell migration and polarization in development, neural synapse strengthening in learning, and correct cell division to avoid cancer development and progression. Despite the importance, few general tools have been developed to understand and probe spatial localization. We present a technique that translates the centimeter scale motions of an external magnet into nanometer scale motions of superparamagnetic nanoparticles internalized within cells growing on specially patterned “nano-active” substrates. In this way, localization of mechanical forces, or localization of nanoparticle-bound biomolecules can be controlled in real time.

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