Automated multi-sample acquisition and analysis using atomic force microscopy for biomedical applications

In the last 20 years, atomic force microscopy (AFM) has emerged as a ubiquitous technique in biological research, allowing the analysis of biological samples under near-physiological conditions from single molecules to living cells. Despite its growing use, the low process throughput remains a major drawback. Here, we propose a solution validated on a device allowing a fully automated, multi-sample analysis. Our approach is mainly designed to study samples in fluid and biological cells. As a proof of concept, we demonstrate its feasibility applied to detect and scan both fixed and living bacteria before completion of data process- ing. The effect of two distinct treatments (i.e. gentamicin and heating) is then evidenced on physical parameters of fixed Yersinia pseudotuberculosis bacteria. The multi-sample analysis presented allows an increase in the number of scanned samples while limiting the user’s input. Importantly, cantilever cleaning and control steps are performed regularly–as part of the automated process–to ensure consistent scanning quality. We discuss how such an approach is paving the way to AFM developments in medical and clinical fields, in which statistical significance of results is a prerequisite.

Antoine Dujardin, Peter De Wolf, Frank Lafont, Vincent Dupres

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