Active probing of the mechanical properties of biological and synthetic vesicles

Melissa C. Piontek*, Rafael B. Lira, Wouter H. Roos

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)
96 Downloads (Pure)


BACKGROUND: The interest in mechanics of synthetic and biological vesicles has been continuously growing during the last decades. Liposomes serve as model systems for investigating fundamental membrane processes and properties. More recently, extracellular vesicles (EVs) have been investigated mechanically as well. EVs are widely studied in fundamental and applied sciences, but their material properties remained elusive until recently. Elucidating the mechanical properties of vesicles is essential to unveil the mechanisms behind a variety of biological processes, e.g. budding, vesiculation and cellular uptake mechanisms. SCOPE OF REVIEW: The importance of mechanobiology for studies of vesicles and membranes is discussed, as well as the different available techniques to probe their mechanical properties. In particular, the mechanics of vesicles and membranes as obtained by nanoindentation, micropipette aspiration, optical tweezers, electrodeformation and electroporation experiments is addressed. MAJOR CONCLUSIONS: EVs and liposomes possess an astonishing rich, diverse behavior. To better understand their properties, and for optimization of their applications in nanotechnology, an improved understanding of their mechanical properties is needed. Depending on the size of the vesicles and the specific scientific question, different techniques can be chosen for their mechanical characterization. GENERAL SIGNIFICANCE: Understanding the mechanical properties of vesicles is necessary to gain deeper insight in the fundamental biological mechanisms involved in vesicle generation and cellular uptake. This furthermore facilitates technological applications such as using vesicles as targeted drug delivery vehicles. Liposome studies provide insight into fundamental membrane processes and properties, whereas the role and functioning of EVs in biology and medicine is increasingly elucidated.
Original languageEnglish
Article number129486
Number of pages15
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta-General Subjects
Issue number4
Early online date14-Nov-2019
Publication statusPublished - Apr-2021


  • Atomic force microscopy (AFM)
  • Electrodeformation
  • Mechanical properties
  • Micropipette aspiration (MPA)
  • Optical tweezers (OT)
  • Vesicles
  • article
  • aspiration
  • atomic force microscopy
  • budding
  • controlled study
  • electroporation
  • exosome
  • mechanics
  • membrane biology
  • micropipette
  • nanotechnology
  • optical tweezers
  • liposome

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