Terahertz s-SNOM Imaging of a Single Cell with Nanoscale Resolution

Xitian Hu, Guangxu Zhang, Jiang Qian, Junhong Lü, Yiming Zhu and Yan Peng

Nano Letters (2024)
Terahertz scattering scanning near-field optical microscopy is a robust spectral detection technique with a nanoscale resolution. However, there are still major challenges in investigating the heterogeneity of cell membrane components in individual cells. Here, we present a novel and comprehensive analytical approach for detecting and investigating heterogeneity in cell membrane components at the single-cell level. In comparison to the resolution of the topographical atomic force microscopy image, the spatial resolution of the terahertz near-field amplitude image is 3 times that of the former. This ultrafine resolution enables the compositional distribution in the cell membrane, such as the distribution of extracellular vesicles, to be finely characterized. Furthermore, via extraction of the near-field absorption images at specific frequencies, the visualization and compositional difference analysis of cell membrane components can be presented in detail. These findings have significant implications for the intuitive and visual analysis of cell development and disease evolutionary pathways.