Chinese Science Bulletin, Volume 64 , Issue 15 : 1610-1619(2019) https://doi.org/10.1360/N972018-01266

Measurement and analysis of cellular viscoelastic properties using atomic force microscopy

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  • ReceivedDec 18, 2018
  • AcceptedMar 4, 2019
  • PublishedApr 24, 2019


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  • Figure 1

    (Color online) AFM experimental platform for measuring the viscoelastic properties of cells. (a) Actual photograph of AFM. (b), (c) AFM is controlled to probe individual living cells under the guidance of optical microscopy. (b) Raji cell (a type of mammalian suspended cell). (c) MCF-7 cell (a type of mammalian adherent cell)

  • Figure 2

    (Color online) Schematic diagram of detecting cellular viscoelasticity by controlling AFM probe to perform approach-dwell-retract movement on cells in the vertical direction. (a) The piezoelectric tube vertically drives AFM probe to gradually move to the cell. (b) The AFM probe contacts and indents the cell. (c) The AFM probe dwells on the cell surface to observe the cellular relaxation process. (d) The AFM probe retracts from cell surface after measurement

  • Figure 3

    (Color online) Flow chart of extracting cellular relaxation time from the recorded relaxation curve

  • Figure 4

    Procedure of measuring cellular relaxation time by AFM. (a) AFM height image of living MCF-7 cells. AFM indentation experiments are performed at the central areas (denoted by the green dots) of cells. (b) Original curves recorded during the approach-dwell-retract process of AFM probe performed on MCF-7 cells. The red curve corresponds to the deflection of AFM cantilever and the gray curve corresponds to the vertical position of AFM probe. (c) Original relaxation curve (denoted by the blue dashed box in (b)). (d) Normalized relaxation curve. (e) Fitting the normalized relaxation curve with two-order Maxwell model gives two cellular relaxation times (the first relaxation time τ1 and the second relaxation time τ2). (f) Original curves recorded on the substrate for control experiments. The blue curve is the deflection of AFM cantilever and the gray curve is the vertical position of AFM probe

  • Figure 5

    (Color online) Typical relaxation curves recorded on different types of cells and the Maxwell fitting curves. (a) HEK 293 cells. (b) MCF-7 cells. (c) MDA-MB-231 cells. (d) Raji cells. (e, f) Primary B cells prepared from the bone marrow (e) and peripheral blood (f) from lymphoma patients. The insets in (a)−(f) are the optical images of cells

  • Figure 6

    (Color online) Statistical comparison of the cellular relaxation times of different types of cells. (a) Cellular relaxation time τ1. (b) Cellular relaxation time τ2

  • Figure 7

    Regression analysis of the first relaxation time τ1 and the second relaxation time τ2 of cells showing the linear relationship between τ1 and τ2

  • Table 1   Cellular relaxation times of different types of cells (Mean±SD)






















  • Table 2   Linear relationship between the first relaxation time and the second relaxation time of cells























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