Review Article

Atomic force microscopy-based characterization and design of biointerfaces

  • Nature Reviews Materials 2, Article number: 17008 (2017)
  • doi:10.1038/natrevmats.2017.8
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Abstract

Atomic force microscopy (AFM)-based methods have matured into a powerful nanoscopic platform, enabling the characterization of a wide range of biological and synthetic biointerfaces ranging from tissues, cells, membranes, proteins, nucleic acids and functional materials. Although the unprecedented signal-to-noise ratio of AFM enables the imaging of biological interfaces from the cellular to the molecular scale, AFM-based force spectroscopy allows their mechanical, chemical, conductive or electrostatic, and biological properties to be probed. The combination of AFM-based imaging and spectroscopy structurally maps these properties and allows their 3D manipulation with molecular precision. In this Review, we survey basic and advanced AFM-related approaches and evaluate their unique advantages and limitations in imaging, sensing, parameterizing and designing biointerfaces. It is anticipated that in the next decade these AFM-related techniques will have a profound influence on the way researchers view, characterize and construct biointerfaces, thereby helping to solve and address fundamental challenges that cannot be addressed with other techniques.

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Acknowledgements

D.A. was supported by the Belgian National Foundation for Scientific Research (FNRS) and the Université catholique de Louvain (Fonds Spéciaux de Recherche). D.A. is a Research Associate FNRS. D.J.M. was supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF; grant 310030B_160225) and the NCCR Molecular Systems Engineering. C.G. and D.J.M. were supported by the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. H.E.G. acknowledges financial support by the ERC grant CelluFuel.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Institute of Life Sciences, Université catholique de Louvain, Croix du Sud 4–5, bte L7.07.06., 1348 Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium.

    • David Alsteens
  2. Applied Physics, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich, Amalienstrasse 54, 80799 München, Germany.

    • Hermann E. Gaub
  3. Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering, Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule (ETH) Zürich, Mattenstrasse 26, 4058 Basel, Switzerland.

    • Richard Newton
    • , Moritz Pfreundschuh
    •  & Daniel J. Müller
  4. Swiss Nanoscience Institute, University of Basel, Klingelbergstrasse 82, 4057 Basel, Switzerland.

    • Christoph Gerber

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Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Daniel J. Müller.