Cell Imaging Techniques

Volume 931 of the series Methods in Molecular Biology pp 313-329


Measuring the Elastic Properties of Living Cells with Atomic Force Microscopy Indentation

  • Joanna L. MacKayAffiliated withDepartment of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, University of California
  • , Sanjay KumarAffiliated withDepartment of Bioengineering, University of California Email author 

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Atomic force microscopy (AFM) is a powerful and versatile tool for probing the mechanical properties of biological samples. This chapter describes the procedures for using AFM indentation to measure the elastic moduli of living cells. We include step-by-step instructions for cantilever calibration and data acquisition using a combined AFM/optical microscope system, as well as a detailed protocol for data analysis. Our protocol is written specifically for the BioScope™ Catalyst™ AFM system (Bruker AXS Inc.); however, most of the general concepts can be readily translated to other commercial systems.

Key words

Scanning probe microscope Nanoindentation Force spectroscopy Mechanobiology Cell mechanics Young’s modulus Stiffness Elasticity