Influence of chemical compounds and other conditions can change the physical properties of individual cells.
Atomic force microscopy (AFM) allows researchers to measure the viscoelastic properties of individual cells, but this technique has been too slow and could only monitor small numbers of cells.
Researchers at Purdue University have unveiled a new technique that can harness just about any atomic force microscope to be able to watch the changing dynamics of large groups of live cells at high spatial and temporal resolutions.
The method is about 20 times faster than the one used before with atomic force microscopy for imaging live cells. It is used to monitor the effects of a specific protein on the spread of breast cancer cells.
It produces an image every 50 seconds compared to the 15 to 20 minutes that was previously required to capture one shot.
The advance in AFM technology was accomplished by two innovations: as the cantilever scans a cell it bends differently depending on the properties of the material being scanned.
A laser measures the deflection, and models convert the data to reveal information about the material's composition. The other innovation is a technique that enables the cantilever to vibrate at two frequencies simultaneously.