AFM for Cell Biology Research

AFM is a versatile tool for cell biology research. It can provide high resolution imaging of cell structures, even on living, unfixed cells. AFM images may be readily compared with light microscopy images from the same region, allowing data from the two imaging modalities to be correlated. Increasingly, AFM is also being used to probe the mechanical properties of cells and cell substrates, including stiffness, elastic modulus, and viscoelasticity.


  • Work with live cells in culture
  • Integrate AFM with inverted light microscopes
  • Use optical images to guide the location of AFM imaging or force measurements
  • Overlay optical images on AFM images or 3D AFM topography
  • Image high resolution structure
  • Measure stiffness or elastic modulus
  • Measure viscoelastic response

Common applications

  • Stiffness and viscoelastic changes in cancer cells
  • Influence of cell substrates on cell differentiation
  • Response of cells to mechanical stimulation
  • Cell stiffness changes in response to pharmaceuticals

Application Notes

AFM and Combined Optical Techniques

This application note briefly describes the basics of both optical and atomic force microscopy, followed by a discussion of some of the technical challenges of integrating these two distinct imaging modalities. In certain cases, the benefits and disadvantages of different approaches to design and integration are discussed. Lastly, a few examples of successful application of these combined imaging modalities are presented.

PDF 1.61MB
Simultaneous Atomic Force and Fluorescence Microscopy Using the MFP-3D™ AFM
Using these microscopy techniques simultaneously provides the user with high resolution imaging on specific molecules and also opens the door to a wide variety of research experiments. In this application note, we will describe the instrumentation and setup, sample preparation, applications, and give experimental examples of the technique.
PDF 1.15MB
Simultaneous AFM and Optical Phase Contrast Using the MFP-3D™ AFM

Optical phase contrast microscopy is a popular technique for imaging low contrast, transparent samples such as cells in fluid. This technique is now standard on the MFP-3D-BIO™ Atomic Force Microscope, enabling simultaneous AFM and phase contrast imaging.

Force Scanning with the MFP-3D™ AFMs: Two Capabilities In One
Force scanning is a simple to execute, broadly applicable approach to analyze compliant materials. The technique can be used for any deformable material, from agarose gels to cartilage to living cells.
PDF 1.79MB

Asylum Research Image Gallery