Biological atomic force microscopy works surprisingly well:
The 150 Ķm-stage is a Petri dish holder with integrated long-range piezo actuators, enabling the precise positioning of the dish surface in height (z-axis), increasing the z-range of the AFM. This is particularly interesting in the single cell force spectroscopy (SCFS) field but may also be utilized in other applications such as 3D printing.
In SCFS, cell adhesion may be differentiated down to the molecular level. For these experiments, cells may be attached to the cantilever using an adhesive protein and subsequently brought into contact with the dish. After an optional waiting time, they are retracted.
Even after the cellís body is no longer in contact with the surface, adhesion events caused by tethers are recorded.7 A microscope objective positioner is also available.
I can't help but compare this astonishing technique, which was only invented in 1985 by IBM scientists in Zurich (winning Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer the 1986 Nobel Prize for Physics), to a clever idea from The Houses of Ism, a novel written by Jack Vance in 1954:
"On the gray disk, Farr Sainh - palms forward, eyes wide."
He stood rigid as feeler-planes brushed down his body. In a glass dome a three-dimensional simulacrum of himself six inches high took form. Farr inspected it sourly...
On the counter-top appeared a three-dimensional replica of Farr. It could be expanded a hundred times, revealing finger-prints, cheek-pores, ear and retinal configuration.