Cell mechanics: principles, practices, and prospects.
Bottom Line: Genetic mutations and pathogens that disrupt the cytoskeletal architecture can result in changes to cell mechanical properties such as elasticity, adhesiveness, and viscosity.Interdisciplinary research combining modern molecular biology with advanced cell mechanical characterization techniques now paves the way for furthering our fundamental understanding of cell mechanics and its role in development, physiology, and disease.We describe a generalized outline for measuring cell mechanical properties including loading protocols, tools, and data interpretation.We summarize recent advances in the field and explain how cell biomechanics research can be adopted by physicists, engineers, biologists, and clinicians alike.
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Mentions: The atomic force microscope is a high resolution surface characterization technique, that has become rapidly adopted for imaging and mechanical characterization of a range of biological samples59 (Figure 4(a)). AFM measurements utilize a micron-sized tip connected to a micro-fabricated cantilever beam to deform and interact with the sample. It is capable of probing surface topography and interaction forces with subnano-meter and pico-newton resolution. One of the most widespread uses of AFM in cell mechanics is AFM force spectroscopy to measure cellular elasticity and rheology. To extract the cell elasticity, the tip of AFM cantilever is pressed against the cell while the force and the imposed cellular deformation are monitored. Considering the tip geometry and using an appropriate contact model, the elasticity of the cell can be computed from the measured force versus indentation data.6 The success of cellular force spectroscopy measurements is in part due to the ease of the measurements, good measurement throughput and commercial systems that are readily available. Furthermore, because the levels of force and deformation can be very accurately measured over time, AFM has been applied for a variety of rheological measurements. Using a feedback loop (incorporated into most commercial systems) levels of strain and stress can be controlled over time, following indentation of the cell via AFM cantilever. Stress-relaxation and creep experiments78,79 can be readily applied and oscillatory tests71 can also be conducted to measure time-dependent cellular mechanical properties.