Imaging cellular forces with photonic crystals

Nat Commun. 2023 Nov 14;14(1):7369. doi: 10.1038/s41467-023-43090-9.


Current techniques for visualizing and quantifying cellular forces have limitations in live cell imaging, throughput, and multi-scale analysis, which impede progress in cell force research and its practical applications. We developed a photonic crystal cellular force microscopy (PCCFM) to image vertical cell forces over a wide field of view (1.3 mm ⨯ 1.0 mm, a 10 ⨯ objective image) at high speed (about 20 frames per second) without references. The photonic crystal hydrogel substrate (PCS) converts micro-nano deformations into perceivable color changes, enabling in situ visualization and quantification of tiny vertical cell forces with high throughput. It enabled long-term, cross-scale monitoring from subcellular focal adhesions to tissue-level cell sheets and aggregates.

MeSH terms

  • Focal Adhesions*
  • Microscopy, Atomic Force / methods
  • Photons*