Since its invention in the mid 1980s atomic force microscopy has revolutionised the way in which surfaces can be imaged. Close to atomic resolution has been achieved for some materials and numerous images of molecules on surfaces have been recorded. Atomic force microscopy has also been of benefit to biology where protein molecules on surfaces have been studied and even whole cells have been investigated. Here we report a study of red blood cells which have been imaged in a physiological medium. At high resolution, the underlying cytoskeleton of the blood cell has been resolved and flaws in the cytoskeleton structure may be observed. Comparison of the normal 'doughnut' shaped cells with swollen cells has been undertaken. Differences in both the global properties of the cells and in the local features in cytoskeleton structure have been observed. © 2001 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
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