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Issue 16, 2020

Nanorheology of living cells measured by AFM-based force–distance curves

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Abstract

Mechanobiology aims to establish functional relationships between the mechanical state of a living a cell and its physiology. The acquisition of force–distance curves with an AFM is by far the dominant method to characterize the nanomechanical properties of living cells. However, theoretical simulations have shown that the contact mechanics models used to determine the Young's modulus from a force–distance curve could be off by a factor 5 from its expected value. The semi-quantitative character arises from the lack of a theory that integrates the AFM data, a realistic viscoelastic model of a cell and its finite-thickness. Here, we develop a method to determine the mechanical response of a cell from a force–distance curve. The method incorporates bottom-effect corrections, a power-law rheology model and the deformation history of the cell. It transforms the experimental data into viscoelastic parameters of the cell as a function of the indentation frequency. The quantitative agreement obtained between the experiments performed on living fibroblast cells and the analytical theory supports the use of force–distance curves to measure the nanorheological properties of cells.

Graphical abstract: Nanorheology of living cells measured by AFM-based force–distance curves

Supplementary files

Article information


Submitted
05 Dec 2019
Accepted
09 Apr 2020
First published
15 Apr 2020

This article is Open Access

Nanoscale, 2020,12, 9133-9143
Article type
Paper

Nanorheology of living cells measured by AFM-based force–distance curves

P. D. Garcia, C. R. Guerrero and R. Garcia, Nanoscale, 2020, 12, 9133 DOI: 10.1039/C9NR10316C

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