Introducing new capabilities for biomechanics of cells and tissues in the NPC Technology Center


Located in the CNSI Nano and Pico Characterization (NPC) Technology Center, the JPK Nanowizard 4A atomic force microscope (AFM) supports nanoscale structural and mechanical characterization of biomaterials ranging from single molecules to cells and tissues through integration of force and optical microscopies.

Now combined with both a confocal (Zeiss LSM5) and stereomicroscope (Leica M205 FCA), this state-of-the-art, multimodal system combines the power of two established techniques to interrogate the role of biomechanics in natural systems and as a platform for the development novel diagnostic and therapeutic technologies.

“This new AFM will allow us unprecedented access to biological samples and allow massive advances in our knowledge of cell and tissue mechanics,” says Siobhan Braybrook, professor of molecular, cell and developmental biology and member of CNSI. “The combined JPK-Leica setup at CNSI will allow for simultaneous AFM-based mechanics measurements and monitoring of fluorescent cell markers or tagged cellular components and the widest available range of area for tissue-level mechanics measurements.”

The JPK Nanowizard 4A configured with a large-range, automated measurement stage has been combined with both laser scanning confocal and fluorescence stereomicroscope to enable high-throughput acquisition of individual mechanical maps over 200 µm x 200 µm areas within a total usable area of over 2 cm2. Combining its long-range (200 µm) piezoelectric scanner with a stereoscope will provide an ideal platform to characterize cells and tissues with unparalleled sensitivity, resolution, and speed. A second Nanowizard AFM will soon be integrated with the Leica SP5-STED confocal microscope in collaboration with the CNSI Advanced Light Microscopy and Spectroscopy (ALMS) Technology Center, enabling co-localized mechanical and super-resolution optical imaging.

“The capabilities of the new JPK system, especially the increased working distance and capacity for scanning large areas with high precision, allow us to quantify extracellular matrix alterations associated with muscle pathology in Duchenne muscular dystrophy that we were previously unable to capture,” says Kristen Stearns-Reider, a postdoctoral researcher in the department of integrative biology and physiology. “The JPK system is really a game-changer for our research and opens up many new areas of investigation that were previously not thought possible.”

The NPC is excited to bring an intuitive and easy-to-use biological AFM to campus that provides Users a large number of new accessories and measurement modes to explore biomechanical properties of systems ranging from atoms to organisms.

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