Effect of cell sample size in atomic force microscopy nanoindentation

Graphical Abstract, showing cells, atomic force microscopy and the effect of sample size on the coefficient of variance of the Young’s modulus of the cells

Cells in the human body can be classified in many different ways. One of these is looking at their mechanical properties, and therefore at how stiff or soft they are. This characteristic has been shown to correlate to different functions in health and disease, with cells changing their mechanics when undergoing specific processes. A method to characterise cell mechanics is atomic force microscopy: a probe is pressed on the sample and an indentation at the nano-scale is performed.

Cell populations, however, present a certain degree of variability in their characteristics and therefore a suitable number of cells have to be tested to obtain reliable information on their mechanics. The aim of this work is to propose a tool to get this estimate. To achieve this, a large dataset of indentation measurements was obtained on bone cells and analysed to study population variability. The developed tool is made available as an open-source repository and guidelines are provided for its use for atomic force microscopy experimental design:


Marcotti, S., Reilly, G. C., Lacroix, D. (2019), “Effect of cell sample size in atomic force microscopy nanoindentation”, Journal of the Mechanical Behavior of Biomedical Materials, 94, pp 259-266.
URL: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jmbbm.2019.03.018