We have developed a novel experimental set-up that simultaneously, (i) applies static and dynamic deformations to adherent cells in culture, (ii) allows the visualization of cells under fluorescence microscopy, and (iii) allows atomic force microscopy nanoindentation measurements of the mechanical properties of the cells. The cell stretcher device relies on a dielectric elastomer film that can be electro-actuated and acts as the cell culture substrate. The shape and position of the electrodes actuating the film can be controlled by design in order to obtain specific deformations across the cell culture chamber. By using optical markers we characterized the strain fields under different electrode configurations and applied potentials. The combined setup, which includes the cell stretcher device, an atomic force microscope, and an inverted optical microscope, can assess in situ and with sub-micron spatial resolution single cell topography and elasticity, as well as ion fluxes, during the application of static deformations. Proof of performance on fibroblasts shows a reproducible increase in the average cell elastic modulus as a response to applied uniaxial stretch of just 4%. Additionally, high resolution topography and elasticity maps on a single fibroblast can be acquired while the cell is deformed, providing evidence of long-term instrumental stability. This study provides a proof-of-concept of a novel platform that allows in situ and real time investigation of single cell mechano-transduction phenomena with sub-cellular spatial resolution.

AFM and fluorescence microscopy of single cells with simultaneous mechanical stimulation via electrically stretchable substrates

Vena P.;
2021

Abstract

We have developed a novel experimental set-up that simultaneously, (i) applies static and dynamic deformations to adherent cells in culture, (ii) allows the visualization of cells under fluorescence microscopy, and (iii) allows atomic force microscopy nanoindentation measurements of the mechanical properties of the cells. The cell stretcher device relies on a dielectric elastomer film that can be electro-actuated and acts as the cell culture substrate. The shape and position of the electrodes actuating the film can be controlled by design in order to obtain specific deformations across the cell culture chamber. By using optical markers we characterized the strain fields under different electrode configurations and applied potentials. The combined setup, which includes the cell stretcher device, an atomic force microscope, and an inverted optical microscope, can assess in situ and with sub-micron spatial resolution single cell topography and elasticity, as well as ion fluxes, during the application of static deformations. Proof of performance on fibroblasts shows a reproducible increase in the average cell elastic modulus as a response to applied uniaxial stretch of just 4%. Additionally, high resolution topography and elasticity maps on a single fibroblast can be acquired while the cell is deformed, providing evidence of long-term instrumental stability. This study provides a proof-of-concept of a novel platform that allows in situ and real time investigation of single cell mechano-transduction phenomena with sub-cellular spatial resolution.
Atomic force microscopy
Cell stretching
Cellular biomechanics
Dielectric elastomer actuators
Mechanical stimulation
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11311/1218902
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