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Int J Mol Sci. 2013 Aug 5;14(8):16124-40. doi: 10.3390/ijms140816124.

Neuron biomechanics probed by atomic force microscopy.

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Department of Physics and Astronomy and Center for Nanoscopic Physics, Tufts University, 4 Colby Street, Medford, MA 02155, USA.


Mechanical interactions play a key role in many processes associated with neuronal growth and development. Over the last few years there has been significant progress in our understanding of the role played by the substrate stiffness in neuronal growth, of the cell-substrate adhesion forces, of the generation of traction forces during axonal elongation, and of the relationships between the neuron soma elastic properties and its health. The particular capabilities of the Atomic Force Microscope (AFM), such as high spatial resolution, high degree of control over the magnitude and orientation of the applied forces, minimal sample damage, and the ability to image and interact with cells in physiologically relevant conditions make this technique particularly suitable for measuring mechanical properties of living neuronal cells. This article reviews recent advances on using the AFM for studying neuronal biomechanics, provides an overview about the state-of-the-art measurements, and suggests directions for future applications.

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