Estimation of cell young's modulus of adherent cells probed by optical and magnetic tweezers: Influence of cell thickness and bead immersion

Alain Kamgoué, Jacques Ohayon, Philippe Tracqui

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


A precise characterization of cell elastic properties is crucial for understanding the mechanisms by which cells sense mechanical stimuli and how these factors alter cellular functions. Optical and magnetic tweezers are micromanipulation techniques which are widely used for quantifying the stiffness of adherent cells from their response to an external force applied on a bead partially embedded within the cell cortex. However, the relationships between imposed external force and resulting bead translation or rotation obtained from these experimental techniques only characterize the apparent cell stiffness. Indeed, the value of the estimated apparent cell stiffness integrates the effect of different geometrical parameters, the most important being the bead embedding angle 2γ, bead radius R, and cell height h. In this paper, a three-dimensional finite element analysis was used to compute the cell mechanical response to applied force in tweezer experiments and to explicit the correcting functions which have to be used in order to infer the intrinsic cell Young's modulus from the apparent elasticity modulus. Our analysis, performed for an extensive set of values of γ, h, and R, shows that the most relevant parameters for computing the correcting functions are the embedding half angle γ and the ratio hu/2R, where hu is the under bead cell thickness. This paper provides original analytical expressions of these correcting functions as well as the critical values of the cell thickness below which corrections of the apparent modulus are necessary to get an accurate value of cell Young's modulus. Moreover, considering these results and taking benefit of previous results obtained on the estimation of cell Young's modulus of adherent cells probed by magnetic twisting cytometry (MTC) (Ohayon, J., and Tracqui, P., 2005, Ann. Biomed. Eng., 33, pp. 131-141), we were able to clarify and to solve the still unexplained discrepancies reported between estimations of elasticity modulus performed on the same cell type and probed with MTC and optical tweezers (OT). More generally, this study may strengthen the applicability of optical and magnetic tweezers techniques by insuring a more precise estimation of the intrinsic cell Young's modulus (CYM).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)523-530
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Biomechanical Engineering
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2007


  • Cell stiffness
  • Cell thickness
  • Finite element method
  • Hyperelastic model
  • Mechanical properties

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Physiology (medical)


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