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Nano Lett. 2005 Jan;5(1):27-30.

Nanoscale operation of a living cell using an atomic force microscope with a nanoneedle.

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Research Institute for Cell Engineering (RICE), National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), 3-11-46 Nakoji, Amagasaki, Hyogo 661-0974, Japan.


We have developed a tool for performing surgical operations on living cells at nanoscale resolution using atomic force microscopy (AFM) and a modified AFM tip. The AFM tips are sharpened to ultrathin needles of 200-300 nm in diameter using focused ion beam etching. Force-distance curves obtained by AFM using the needles indicated that the needles penetrated the cell membrane following indentation to a depth of 1-2 microm. The force increase during the indentation process was found to be consistent with application of the Hertz model. A three-dimensional image generated by laser scanning confocal microscopy directly revealed that the needle penetrated both the cellular and nuclear membranes to reach the nucleus. This technique enables the extended application of AFM to analyses and surgery of living cells.

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