Can you please give a brief introduction to your research characterizing cancer cells?
My name is James Gimzewski and I am a distinguished professor at UCLA. I’m in the Chemistry and Biochemistry department, but I am also heavily involved in the California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA. We were probably the first to pioneer the idea of what is now known as mechanobiology – the study of the mechanical properties of cancer cells as a potential diagnostic tool.
How has AFM allowed you to measure cell softness and why is this important?
One of the beautiful things about AFM is that it is a mechanical tool. In the same way a doctor would feel the skin or tissue of a patient, AFM allows that to be done on the nanoscale and it is unique in that respect.
What challenges did you have to overcome in terms of making sure the cells didn’t burst?
We know a lot about AFM technology. At the beginning, AFM was not very good at biology at all. However, we are experts in nanotechnology and by working with people who are experts in cells, and bringing the two fields together, we could conduct a lot of research and decrease forces, for instance, and understand things about the tip, which enabled us to develop this ability.