Quantifying cell generated mechanical forces is key to furthering our understanding of mechanobiology. Traction force microscopy (TFM) is one of the most broadly applied force probing technologies, but its sensitivity is strictly dependent on the spatio-temporal resolution of the underlying imaging system. In previous works, it was demonstrated that increased sampling densities of cell derived forces permitted by super-resolution fluorescence imaging enhanced the sensitivity of the TFM method. However, these recent advances to TFM based on super-resolution techniques were limited to slow acquisition speeds and high illumination powers. Here, we present three novel TFM approaches that, in combination with total internal reflection, structured illumination microscopy and astigmatism, improve the spatial and temporal performance in either two-dimensional or three-dimensional mechanical force quantification, while maintaining low illumination powers. These three techniques can be straightforwardly implemented on a single optical set-up offering a powerful platform to provide new insights into the physiological force generation in a wide range of biological studies. This article is part of the Theo Murphy meeting issue 'Super-resolution structured illumination microscopy (part 1)'.
Philos Trans A Math Phys Eng Sci
structured illumination microscopy, super-resolution, traction force microscopy