Local Viscoelastic Properties of Live Cells Investigated Using Dynamic and Quasi-Static Atomic Force Microscopy Methods

Alexander Cartagena, Purdue University
Arvind Raman, Purdue University, Birck Nanotechnology Center

Date of this Version



The measurement of viscoelasticity of cells in physiological environments with high spatio-temporal resolution is a key goal in cell mechanobiology. Traditionally only the elastic properties have been measured from quasi-static force-distance curves using the atomic force microscope (AFM). Recently, dynamic AFM-based methods have been proposed to map the local in vitro viscoelastic properties of living cells with nanoscale resolution. However, the differences in viscoelastic properties estimated from such dynamic and traditional quasi-static techniques are poorly understood. In this work we quantitatively reconstruct the local force and dissipation gradients (viscoelasticity) on live fibroblast cells in buffer solutions using Lorentz force excited cantilevers and present a careful comparison between mechanical properties (local stiffness and damping) extracted using dynamic and quasi-static force spectroscopy methods. The results highlight the dependence of measured viscoelastic properties on both the frequency at which the chosen technique operates as well as the interactions with subcellular components beyond certain indentation depth, both of which are responsible for differences between the viscoelasticity property maps acquired using the dynamic AFM method against the quasi-static measurements.


Nanoscience and Nanotechnology