Capturing the elasticity and morphology of live fibroblast cell cultures during degradation with atomic force microscopy


K. E. Aifantis, Lab of Mechanics and Materials, Aristotle Univeristy, Thessaloniki 54124, Greece. Tel: 30-2310 995921; fax: 30-2310995921; e-mail:


Atomic force microscopy, in a liquid environment, was used to capture in vitro the morphological and mechanical changes that cultured fibroblasts undergo as time elapses from the completion of the cell culture. Topography images illustrated that initially, the nucleus had a height of 1.18 ± 0.2 μm, and after 48 h it had decreased to 550 ± 60 nm; similarly, the cell membrane exhibited significant shrinkage from 34 ± 4 to 23 ± 2 μm. After each image scan, atomic force microscopy indentation was performed on the centre of the nucleus, to measure the changes in the cell elasticity. Examination of the force-distance curves indicated that the membrane elastic modulus at the nucleus remained the same within the time frame of 48 h, even though the cell morphology had significantly changed.