Biomembrane force probe (BFP): Design, advancements, and recent applications to live-cell mechanobiology

This review provides a thorough examination of the traditional BFP-DFS configurations, highlighting notable progressions such as the introduction of the dual biomembrane force probe (dBFP) and the fluorescence biomembrane force probe (fBFP). The significant contributions of the BFP-DFS to cancer biology, thrombosis, and inflammation are explored, underscoring its potential for unveiling therapeutic insights. Additionally, forthcoming enhancements to the BFP technology that aim to enhance its output and feasibility are anticipated, thereby emphasizing its increasing significance in the realm of cell mechanobiology.


Mechanical forces play a vital role in biological processes at molecular and cellular levels, significantly impacting various diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and COVID-19. Recent advancements in dynamic force spectroscopy (DFS) techniques have enabled the application and measurement of forces and displacements with high resolutions, providing crucial insights into the mechanical pathways underlying these diseases. Among DFS techniques, the biomembrane force probe (BFP) stands out for its ability to measure bond kinetics and cellular mechanosensing with pico-newton and nano-meter resolutions. Here, a comprehensive overview of the classical BFP-DFS setup is presented and key advancements are emphasized, including the development of dual biomembrane force probe (dBFP) and fluorescence biomembrane force probe (fBFP). BFP-DFS allows us to investigate dynamic bond behaviors on living cells and significantly enhances the understanding of specific ligand-receptor axes mediated cell mechanosensing. The contributions of BFP-DFS to the fields of cancer biology, thrombosis, and inflammation are delved into, exploring its potential to elucidate novel therapeutic discoveries. Furthermore, future BFP upgrades aimed at improving output and feasibility are anticipated, emphasizing its growing importance in the field of cell mechanobiology. Although BFP-DFS remains a niche research modality, its impact on the expanding field of cell mechanobiology is immense.

Author list:

Laura Moldovan, Caroline Haoran Song, Yiyao Catherine Chen, Haoqing Jerry Wang, Lining Arnold Ju*

How to cite:

L. Moldovan, C. H. Song, Y. C. Chen, H. J. Wang, L. A. Ju, Exploration 2023, 3, 20230004.