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  Journal of Nanoscience Letters. Volume 1, Issue 2 (2011) pp. 87-101
  Review Article
The Emergence of AFM Applications to Cell Biology: How new technologies are facilitating investigation of human cells in health and disease at the nanoscale
  Ruiguo Yanga, Ning Xia, Carmen Kar Man Funga, Kristina Seiffert-Sinhab, King Wai Chiu Laia, Animesh A. Sinhab,*  
a College of Engineering, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA
b Department of Dermatology, State University of New York at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY 14263, USA

  Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) based nanorobotics has been used for building nano devices in semiconductors for almost a decade. Leveraging the unparallel localization capabilities of this technology, high resolution imaging and mechanical property characterization is now increasingly being performed in biological settings. AFM also offers the prospect for handling and manipulating biological materials at nanometer scale. It has unique advantages over other methods, permitting experiments in the liquid phase where physiological conditions can be maintained. Taking advantage of these properties, our group has visualized membrane and cytoskeletal structures of live cells by controlling the interaction force of the AFM tip with cellular components at the nN or sub-nN range. Cell stiffness changes were observed by statistically analyzing the Young’s modulus values of human keratinocytes before and after specific antibody treatment. Furthermore, we used the AFM cantilever as a robotic arm for mechanical pushing, pulling and cutting to perform nanoscale manipulations of cell-associated structures. AFM guided nano-dissection, or nanosurgery was enacted on the cell in order to sever intermediate filaments connecting neighboring keratinocytes via sub 100 nm resolution cuts. Finally, we have used a functionalized AFM tip to probe cell surface receptors to obtain binding force measurements. This technique formed the basis for Single Molecule Force Spectroscopy (SMFS). In addition to enhancing our basic understanding of dynamic signaling events in cell biology, these advancements in AFM based biomedical investigations can be expected to facilitate the search for biomarkers related to disease diagnosis progress and treatment.
  AFM; Cell biology; Live cell imaging; Nanomanipulation; Nanosurgery; Tip functionalization  

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