Quantum-Enhanced Diamond Molecular Tension Microscopy for Quantifying Cellular Forces

The constant interplay and information exchange between cells and their micro-environment are essential to their survival and ability to execute biological functions. To date, a few leading technologies such as traction force microscopy, have been broadly used in measuring cellular forces. However, the considerable limitations, regarding the sensitivity and ambiguities in data interpretation, are hindering our thorough understanding of mechanobiology. Herein, we propose an innovative approach, namely quantum-enhanced diamond molecular tension microscopy (QDMTM), to precisely quantify the integrin-based cell adhesive forces. Specifically, we construct a force sensing platform by conjugating the magnetic nanotags labeled, force-responsive polymer to the surface of diamond membrane containing nitrogen vacancy (NV) centers. Thus, the coupled mechanical information can be quantified through optical readout of spin relaxation of NV centers modulated by those magnetic nanotags. To validate QDMTM, we have carefully performed corresponding measurements both in control and real cell samples. Particularly, we have obtained the quantitative cellular adhesion force mapping by correlating the measurement with established theoretical model. We anticipate that our method can be routinely used in studying important issues like cell-cell or cell-material interactions and mechanotransduction.

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