Probing mechanical adaptation of neurite outgrowth on a hydrogel material using atomic force microscopy

Frank Xue Jiang, David C. Lin, Ferenc Horkay, Noshir A. Langrana

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


In this study, we describe the design and initial results of probing mechanical adaptation of neurite growth of lightly fixed neurons on a hydrogel substrate by using atomic force microscopy (AFM). It has been shown previously that cells are responsive to the physical conditions of their micro-environment, and that certain cells can adjust their own stiffness as part of the adaptation to the substrate. AFM, a powerful tool to probe micro- and nano-scale structures, has been utilized in assessing topography, morphology, and structural change of neuronal cells. We used AFM with a robust force analysis approach in this study to probe the mechanical properties of both neurites and the substrate at close proximity. We first confirmed the robustness and consistency of the approach specific to soft materials by comparing measurements made on the same reference material using different methods. Subsequently, it was found that the primary spinal cord neurons that were lightly fixed exhibited different stiffnesses between the cell body and neurites. Furthermore, in comparison to the rigidity of the substrate, the stiffness of the neurites was lower, whereas that of the neuronal cell body was higher.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)706-713
Number of pages8
JournalAnnals of Biomedical Engineering
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biomedical Engineering


  • Elasticity map
  • Mechanical stiffness
  • Spinal cord neuron
  • Stiffness
  • Topography


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