Using atomic force microscopy-based, time-traced imaging and force spectroscopy measurements, researchers report changes in cancer cells’ biomechanics and biophysical properties caused by standard chemotherapeutic drugs. The researchers add to our understanding of the interactions between hypoxia and chemotherapeutic drugs.
The stiffness kinetics of untreated cancer cells remain consistent in both normoxia and hypoxia, regardless of drug type, drug exposure time, or oxygen levels in the microenvironment. Furthermore, changes in stiffness caused by the drug’s disruption or reinforcement of cytoskeletal structure were associated with significant changes in cellular morphology, surface roughness, and cytoadhesion.
Although drug treatment alone significantly affects cellular stiffness, the efficacy can be reduced by drug resistance caused by hypoxia, highlighting the complex underpinning mechanisms that govern overall biomechanics and biophysical properties.
To assess the deformability of living cells, various biomechanical and biophysical assay approaches, such as micropipette aspiration, optical and magnetic tweezers, mechanical microplate stretchers, and atomic force microscopy (AFM), have been used. Among these, the AFM method has proven to be an excellent technique for studying single-cell nanoscale morphology and biomechanical properties in physiological solutions. Furthermore, the AFM probe’s functionalization with selective ligands enables quantitative measurements of intracellular components such as cytoskeleton, adhesion force, and binding probability between membrane receptors and ligands.
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