Mapping the mechanical pulse of single cardiomyocytes with the atomic force microscope
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The atomic force microscope (AFM) was used to analyse the contractile behaviour of embryonic chicken cardiomyocytes. The mechanical pulsing of cardiomyocytes was analysed by observing active single cells as well as cells in a confluent layer. When embedded in a confluent layer, owing to synchronisation, pulsing of the cells was often found to be very stable in terms of frequency and amplitude of the beat, including negative as well as positive amplitudes. Nevertheless, owing to movements of contraction centres within the layer, a flipping of the sign of the amplitude did sometimes also occur on a time scale of minutes. In contrast, single cells often changed between active periods of pulsing and periods of complete quietness. Also characteristic parameters like beat period and pulse amplitude were observed to be unstable. Finally, we combined the abilities of the AFM to image adherent single cells and to record locally beat amplitudes, to characterise the pulsing behaviour of single cells laterally resolved.
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