Virology with FluidFM®

Studying infections with single virion precision.

Go beyond bulk experiments. Study viral entry and replication on a single virion-single cell level.

Typically, viral infections are studied in bulk experiments where many cells in culture are exposed to the virus simultaneously, making it difficult to study single virus entry events or the spread of the viral infection between individual cells. With the gentle, micro-channeled, and force feedback-controlled FluidFM probes, single virions can be deposited onto selected cells allowing unprecedented control to study viral infections in-vitro. FluidFM can therefore help to illuminate fundamental questions on virulence, virus replication, or host immune response and thereby boost the development of novel antiviral drugs and vaccines.

FluidFM Virology - Precise deposition of a single virion at an exact location on a specific cell

Precisely deposit a single virion 

Single virions can be placed at an exact location on your cell of choice

Inject a single virion

Directly inject a single virion into the cytoplasm or the nucleus of a specific cell

Measure biophysical changes

Measure mass changes, variation in stiffness, and changes in adhesion force

Isolate, extract & analyze

Isolate infected cells - or take single cell biopsies - for further expansion or analysis

Observe & monitor 

Continuously monitor the cell and observe the surrounding culture via integrated microscope and tracking software

Empower your research with FluidFM

How FluidFM boosts your virology experiments

Gain unprecedented insights in viral infection

FluidFM introduces new experimental possibilities to virology by allowing full control over how many virions interact with user-selected cells in adherent cell cultures. This promises new insights into:

  • Cell entry and infection mechanism

  • Cellular response, virus cooperativity and virus life-cycle stages

  • Proliferation, spreading rate and cell to cell infection

FluidFM Virology - Working principle of viral manipulation with FluidFM

Working principle of viral manipulation with FluidFM.

Quantify host defense &
virus cooperativity

By placing defined numbers of virions onto a cell, the host cell defense against the virus can be quantified. Therefore, infection probability, the host defense limitations, and the cooperation between virions can be studied. 

A single virion is being pushed through a FluidFM cantilever. Image courtesy of P. Stiefel, ETH Zurich.

A single virion is being pushed through the hollow cantilever of the FluidFM micropipette.
Image courtesy of P. Stiefel, ETH Zurich.

4 deposited virions on a single cell. Image courtesy of P. Stiefel, ETH Zurich.

4 virions have been deposited on a selected single cell. Image courtesy of P. Stiefel, ETH Zurich.

Monitor cell-to-cell spread

Thanks to the integrated CO2- and temperature incubation unit as well as the epi-fluorescence microscope, FluidFM operates in a fully cell culture-compatible environment. This preserves the cell culture context of the infected cells and, together with the software-supported automated tracking function, allows long-time observation of the infected or manipulated cell. This allows following in detail how the viral infection spreads from the host cell to its neighbors and onto the rest of the culture.

Introduce single infected cells to healthy cultures or vice-versa

Gently pick up a single cell from adherent or suspension culture and place it into another well plate with micrometer precision, fully preserving the cells’ viability. This enables to study the effect of introducing single infected cells into a healthy culture. The same method can also be used to place healthy cells, resistant cells, or drug-treated cells onto infected cultures.

FluidFM Virology - With FluidFM isolated cell

Isolated single cell.

Isolate cells of interest for further expansion or analysis

Single cells can be isolated from a culture based on morphology or fluorescent markers. Staying fully viable, these cells of interest can then be expanded in a new dish or processed for further proteomic or transcriptomic analysis. It is even possible to take single cell biopsies for analysis.

Gain mechanical insights from single cell infection

The integrated force feedback of FluidFM probes allows quantifying mechanical interactions with pN force resolution. Measure biophysical changes induced by the infection of single cells, such as variations in stiffness, changes in adhesion force and, depending on the system, even changes in mass. FluidFM thus allows to correlate morphological with mechanical changes induced by the virus onto its host cells. 


In this video, a single cell is detached from fully adherent and confluent culture. Courtesy of A. Sancho and J. Groll, Functional Materials for Medicine and Dentistry, University Hospital of Würzburg.

FluidFM technology can help answer fundamental questions on virus virulence, replication, host immune response and can boost development of novel drugs and vaccines via precise bottom-up approaches.

Selected FluidFM publications on viral research

How it works

Based on hollow force-controlled FluidFM probes

The core principle of FluidFM enabling virology are our patented, hollow force-controlled probes. The variety of available probe tips and aperture sizes enables distinct experimental designs as described above.
More on FluidFM probes & technology

FluidFM probes can be used with the FluidFM ADD-ON in combination with an existing AFM or with our standalone FluidFM OMNIUM system.
Learn more on the differences below

System comparison - FluidFM ADD-ON vs FluidFM OMNIUM

Find out which system fits your application and needs

Find out more about our systems

More on virology

With the rise of the recent COVID 19 pandemic, the vulnerability of the diverse healthcare systems across the world to highly infectious diseases became apparent. The SARS-CoV2 is just another severe outbreak of a disease that cannot be easily detected and confined within geographical borders.

The unexpected spread of the SARS-CoV2, and its disastrous impact on the strongest economies worldwide, made the political and scientific communities aware that profound understanding and investments are needed in all areas of epidemiology if we want to improve our defenses against future pandemics.

Among other modern techniques that help understanding virus function towards the development of novel vaccines and drugs, FluidFM technology can help answer fundamental questions on virus virulence, replication, host immune response and can boost development of novel drugs and vaccines via precise bottom-up approaches.