Using carbon nanotube probes for high-resolution three-dimensional imaging of cells

J. E. Koehne, R. M. Stevens, T. Zink, Z. Deng, H. Chen, I. C. Weng, Fu-Tong Liu, Gang-yu Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


While atomic force microscopy (AFM) has become a promising tool for visualizing membrane morphology of cells, many studies have reported the presence of artifacts such as cliffs on the edges of cells. These artifacts shield important structural features such as lamellopodia, filopodia, microvilli and membrane ridges, which represent characteristic status in signaling processes such as spreading and activation. These cliff-like edges arise from a premature contact of the probe side contact with the cell prior to the probe top apex-cell contact. Carbon nanotube (CNT) modified AFM probes were utilized to address this drawback. Using rat basophilic leukemia (RBL) cells, this work revealed that CNT probes diminish cliff-like artifacts and enabled visualization of entire membrane morphology and structural features in three dimensions. The high aspect ratio of CNT probes provides a very effective remedy to the cliff-like artifacts as well as tip convolution of conventional probes, which shall enhance the validity and application of AFM in cellular biology research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1155-1162
Number of pages8
Issue number8
StatePublished - Jul 2011


  • Artifacts
  • Atomic force microscopy
  • Cells
  • Convolution
  • Deconvolution
  • Membrane

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Instrumentation
  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials


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