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IEEE Trans Autom Sci Eng. 2013 Apr;10(2). doi: 10.1109/TASE.2012.2226154.

A Semi-Automated Positioning System for contact-mode Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM).

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Robotics, Automation, and Medical Systems (RAMS) Laboratory at the University of Maryland, College Park MD 20742 USA


Contact mode Atomic Force Microscopy (CM-AFM) is popularly used by the biophysics community to study mechanical properties of cells cultured in petri dishes, or tissue sections fixed on microscope slides. While cells are fairly easy to locate, sampling in spatially heterogeneous tissue specimens is laborious and time-consuming at higher magnifications. Furthermore, tissue registration across multiple magnifications for AFM-based experiments is a challenging problem, suggesting the need to automate the process of AFM indentation on tissue. In this work, we have developed an image-guided micropositioning system to align the AFM probe and human breast-tissue cores in an automated manner across multiple magnifications. Our setup improves efficiency of the AFM indentation experiments considerably. Note to Practitioners: Human breast tissue is by nature heterogeneous, and in the samples we studied, epithelial tissue is formed by groups of functional breast epithelial cells that are surrounded by stromal tissue in a complex intertwined way. Therefore sampling a specific cell type on an unstained specimen is very difficult. To aid us, we use digital stained images of the same tissue annotated by a certified pathologist to identify the region of interest (ROI) at a coarse magnification and an image-guided positioning system to place the unstained tissue near the AFM probe tip. Using our setup, we could considerably reduce AFM operating time and we believe that our setup is a viable supplement to commercial AFM stages with limited X-Y range.


Atomic Force Microscopy; Biomechanics

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