Eur Biophys J. 2020 Aug 17. doi: 10.1007/s00249-020-01456-7. Online ahead of print.
The identification of cancer-related changes in cells and tissues based on the measurements of elastic properties using atomic force microscopy (AFM) seems to be approaching clinical application. Several limiting aspects have already been discussed; however, still, no data have shown how specific AFM probe geometries are related to the biomechanical evaluation of cancer cells. Here, we analyze and compare the nanomechanical results of mechanically homogenous polyacrylamide gels and heterogeneous
bladder cancer cells measured using AFM probes of various tip geometry, including symmetric and non-symmetric pyramids and a sphere. Our observations show large modulus variability aligned with both types of AFM probes used and with the internal structure of the cells. Altogether, these results demonstrate that it is possible to differentiate between compliant and rigid samples of kPa elasticity; however, simultaneously, they highlight the strong need for standardized protocols for AFM-based elasticity measurements if applied in clinical practice including the use of a single type of AFM cantilever.