Shivani Sharma describes the use of atomic force microscopy for studying cell mechanics and diagnosis of cancer.

Shivani Sharma is associate director of the Nano Pico Characterization Lab at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). She completed her PhD in the Centre for Biomedical Engineering, at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in 2004. She spent a further year as Senior Project Officer in the School of Medical Science & Technology at IIT before taking a position as Senior Fellow in the Department of Bioengineering at the University of Washington. She moved to UCLA in 2008 and joined the California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA in 2010.

Her current research includes nanoscale structural, biochemical and molecular characterization of exosomes - sub-100nm particles that are secreted by a range of normal mammalian cells into body fluids such as saliva, blood and urine via exocytosis. Recently exosomes have gained significance as disease biomarkers. The goal of the project is to combine AFM, EM and other approaches to further understand the nanoscale characteristics of exosomes at the vesicular and sub-vesicular level. She also works on nanoscale actin remodelling, an area in biology where AFM has provided a new ways to analyze protein complexes at the nanoscale. Another strand of her research is cancer nanomechanics. This project involves a very novel area of research in ovarian cancer since the ability to study biomechanical changes in cancer cells has only recently become available. In a collaborative effort with UCLA Medical Centre, the goal of this project is to investigate cell nanomechanics, namely cell stiffness or elasticity, and related changes of the actin cytoskeleton as a potential biomarker for aggressive cancers.

Further reading

Nanomechanical analysis of cells from cancer patients Cross S E, Jin Y-S, Rao J and Gimzewski J K (2007) Nature Nanotechnology 2 780-783>

Application of AFM to the Nanomechanics of Cancer Sharma S and Gimzewski J K (2016) MRS Advances 1817-1827

Biophysical and morphological effects of nanodiamond/nanoplatinum solution (DPV576) on metastatic murine breast cancer cells in vitro Ghoneum A, Zhu H, Woo J, Zabinyakov N, Sharma S and Gimzewski J K (2014) Nanotechnology 25 465101

Structural-mechanical characterization of nanoparticle exosomes in human saliva, using correlative AFM, FESEM, and force spectroscopy Sharma S, Rasool H I, Palanisamy V, Mathisen C, Schmidt M, Wong D T and Gimzewski J K (2010) ACS Nano 4 1921–1926

Correlative nanomechanical profiling with super-resolution F-actin imaging reveals novel insights into mechanisms of cisplatin resistance in ovarian cancer cells Sharma S, Santiskulvong C, Bentolila, L A, Rao J, Dorigo O and Gimzewski J K 2012 Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology, and Medicine 8 757-766