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Chemical engineers’ paper selected American Chemical Society’s editors’ choice article

Using atomic force microscopy (AFM) to measure the elastic moduli of cells.

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Using atomic force microscopy (AFM) to measure the elastic moduli of cells.

Virginia Tech engineers’ article, “Measuring Cytoplasmic Stiffness of Fibroblasts as a Function of Location and Substrate Rigidity Using Atomic Force Microscopy”, in American Chemical Society Biomaterials Science and Engineering was selected as an American Chemical Society’s (ACS) Editors’ Choice article. This honor is given to only one article from the entire ACS portfolio each day of the year due to its potential for broad public interest.

In the study, Andrew Ford, who recently completed his Ph.D. in chemical engineering, and Padma Rajagopalan, the Robert E. Hord Jr. Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering, measured the elastic moduli of cells at different locations to demonstrate how this property varies as a function of where the measurement is performed. The degree of anisotropy measured by the difference between cytoplasmic stiffness at the two edges of the cell also varied as a function of the elasticity of their underlying substrates. Larger differences in cytoplasmic stiffness between the leading and trailing edges were observed on substrates with a higher elastic modulus. 

Results from the study have implications in understanding cell migration, diseases such as cancer and fibrosis, and in normal processes such as wound healing. The study was partially supported by the National Science Foundation.

Ford is currently a post-doctoral research associate in the Department of Bioengineering at Tufts University. 

Rajagopalan serves as the program director for the Computational Tissue Engineering Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Program and as the co-director for the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science Center for Systems Biology of Engineered Tissues.