Researchers at Purdue University managed to combine an atomic force microscopy and nuclear magnetic resonance imaging into one device that may uncover secrets of how cells behave, particularly during metastasis. While an atomic force microscope can let you see tiny structures, they don’t provide much info about the underlying biochemical activity within the cell.
By placing two really tiny coils on the same axis as the tip of the microscope’s cantilever, the team was able to detect hydrogen protons in a sample by running current through one coil and detecting a response through the other.
From the study abstract in Applied Physics Letters:
We present the coupling of atomic force microscopy (AFM) and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) technologies to enable topographical, mechanical, and chemical profiling of biological samples. Here, we fabricate and perform proof-of-concept testing of radiofrequency planar microcoils on commercial AFM cantilevers. The sensitive region of the coil was estimated to cover an approximate volume of 19.4 × 103 μm3 (19.4 pl). Functionality of the spectroscopic module of the prototype device is illustrated through the detection of 1Η resonance in deionized water. The acquired spectra depict combined NMR capability with AFM that may ultimately enable biophysical and biochemical studies at the single cell level.
Announcement: New imaging technology could reveal cellular secrets…
Study in Applied Physics Letters: Atomic force microscopy-coupled microcoils for cellular-scale nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy