JPK Instruments, a world-leading manufacturer of nanoanalytic instrumentation for research in life sciences and soft matter, reports on the use of their NanoWizard AFM systems at the Microscopy & Imaging Facility (MIF) at the University of Calgary in Canada.
The Calgary Microscopy and Imaging Facility (MIF) is a world-class university-wide facility housing transmission electron microscopy (TEM), scanning electron microscopy (SEM), advanced light microscopy, atomic force microscopy (AFM), including single cell force spectroscopy (SCFS), and advanced image processing for three-dimensional electron and light microscopy, directed by Professor Matthias Amrein.
Single cell force spectroscopy at the MIF has now attracted high profile research with three NanoWizard AFM systems from JPK, one of which is equipped with the CellHesion module. Describing the work of the Calgary group, Professor Amrein says "While we do some work for the energy sector (to predict behaviour of nanoparticles injected into oil reservoirs) our main focus is medicine. We delve into very fundamental problems such as "how does a malaria red blood cell attach itself to a blood vessel" or "how does binding of a ligand to a cell surface receptor or contact of a crystalline surface with the plasma membrane drive lipid sorting and how will this lead to signalling" but then immediately apply it to a practical problem such as "how does contact of uric acid crystals with dendritic cells cause gout in affected joints and how can we prevent this occurrence?" We want to understand disease processes at a very fundamental level so we know how to intervene in the best possible way. For example, a chronic inflammatory disease such as gout or arteriosclerosis may be triggered by a very specific interaction of a particle (uric acid crystals, cholesterol crystals, amyloid plaque, .... ) and specific cell (dendritic cell, macrophage, T-cell, ...). Understanding this interaction will lead to targeted treatment "block the interaction" rather than the non-specific dampening of inflammation such as by corticosteroids with its many well-documented side effects and limited efficacy."
Before developing their use of AFM in this way, their user community attempted solving their problems using flow assays (cell adhesion) and flow cytometry among other methods. While these are still in use, now they have discovered the amazing versatility and power of AFM and made this their central tool.
JPK's AFMs provide single cell studies with simultaneous real-time mechanical measurements. As Professor Amrein says, "Binding is a fundamental process which plays into a myriad of ways as to how the body develops, signals ad interacts with its environment. The best tool to study this is AFM."