Mechanical Characterization of Liposomes and Extracellular Vesicles, a Protocol

Daan Vorselen, Melissa C. Piontek, Wouter H. Roos, Gijs J.L. Wuite*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Both natural as well as artificial vesicles are of tremendous interest in biology and nanomedicine. Small vesicles (<200 nm) perform essential functions in cell biology and artificial vesicles (liposomes) are used as drug delivery vehicles. Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) is a powerful technique to study the structural properties of these vesicles. AFM is a well-established technique for imaging at nanometer resolution and for mechanical measurements under physiological conditions. Here, we describe the procedure of AFM imaging and force spectroscopy on small vesicles. We discuss how to image vesicles with minimal structural disturbance, and how to analyze the data for accurate size and shape measurements. In addition, we describe the procedure for performing nanoindentations on vesicles and the subsequent data analysis including mechanical models used for data interpretation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number139
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalFrontiers in Molecular Biosciences
Issue numberJuly
Early online date21 Jul 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2020


  • (small) vesicles
  • atomic force microscopy (AFM)
  • bending modulus
  • Canham-Helfrich theory
  • extracellular vesicles
  • liposomes
  • mechanical properties
  • nanoindentation


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