Aging increases stiffness of cardiac myocytes measured by atomic force microscopy nanoindentation

Samuel C. Lieber, Nadine Aubry, Jayashree Pain, Gissela Diaz, Song Jung Kim, Stephen F. Vatner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

183 Scopus citations


It is well established that the aging heart exhibits left ventricular (LV) diastolic dysfunction and changes in mechanical properties, which are thought to be due to alterations in the extracellular matrix. We tested the hypothesis that the mechanical properties of cardiac myocytes significantly change with aging, which could contribute to the global changes in LV diastolic dysfunction. We used atomic force microscopy (AFM), which determines cellular mechanical property changes at nanoscale resolution in myocytes, from young (4 mo) and old (30 mo) male Fischer 344 x Brown Norway F1 hybrid rats. A measure of stiffness, i.e., apparent elastic modulus, was determined by analyzing the relationship between AFM indentation force and depth with the classical infinitesimal strain theory and by modeling the AFM probe as a blunted conical indenter. This is the first study to demonstrate a significant increase (P < 0.01) in the apparent elastic modulus of single, aging cardiac myocytes (from 35.1 ± 0.7, n = 53, to 42.5 ± 1.0 kPa, n = 58), supporting the novel concept that the mechanism mediating LV diastolic dysfunction in aging hearts resides, in part, at the level of the myocyte.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)H645-H651
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Heart and Circulatory Physiology
Issue number2 56-2
StatePublished - Aug 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)


  • Cell mechanics
  • Elastic modulus
  • Heart
  • Nanotechnology


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