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Imaging Mechanical Properties of Living Cells by Scanning Probe Microscopy

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Scanning probe microscope (SPM) has been developed as a powerful tool for obtaining high resolution topographic images of biological samples in their natural aqueous environment. SPM can also be used to evaluate mechanical properties because its probe is physically in contact with the samples during measurement. To obtain cellular stiffness with SPM, we have proposed two methods: a force modulation mode and a force mapping mode. Considering the influence of the drag force of liquids, we have successfully improved the quantitative evaluation of cellular stiffness by using the force modulation mode. Experiments performed using the two methods revealed that the local stiffness of fibroblasts was not homogeneous on the cell surface but largely varied from point to point. It was revealed that spatial and temporal distributions of cellular stiffness originate in cytoskeletal distribution, mode of cellular migration, and intracellular contractile force.

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Keywords: Cell mechanics; Fibroblast; Force mapping mode; Force modulation mode; Scanning probe microscopy; Viscoelasticity

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Division of Biological Sciences, Graduate School of Science, Hokkaido University, Sapporo 060-0810, Japan.

Publication date: 2007-02-01

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