The patch clamp technique, for which Erwin Neher and Bert Sakmann won the 1991 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, has provided a great deal of insight into the electrophysiological processes happening on the cellular level by monitoring ion channel activity. Now a team of researchers have combined a patch clamp with what is essentially an atomic force microscope to be able to now study beating cardiac cells.
The technology relies on a special force-controlled nanopipette that was modeled on microchanneled cantilevers used in atomic force microscopes.
From the study abstract in Nano Letters:
First, the compatibility of the system with patch-clamp electronics and its ability to record the activity of voltage-gated ion channels in whole-cell configuration was demonstrated with sodium (NaV1.5) channels. Second, we showed the feasibility of simultaneous recording of membrane current and force development during contraction of isolated cardiomyocytes. Force feedback allowed for a gentle and stable contact between AFM tip and cell membrane enabling serial patch clamping and injection without apparent cell damage.
Paper in Nano Letters: Force-Controlled Patch Clamp of Beating Cardiac Cells…