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  1. Numerous studies have linked a wide range of diseases including respiratory illnesses to harmful particulate matter (PM) emissions indoors and outdoors, such as incense PM and industrial PM. Because of their ability to penetrate the lower respiratory tract and the circulatory system, fine particles with diameters of 2.5 µm or less (PM2.5) are believed to be more hazardous than larger PMs. Despite the enormous number of studies focusing on the intracellular processes associated with PM2.5 exposure, there have been limited reports studying the biophysical properties of cell membranes, such as nanoscale morphological changes induced by PM2.5. Our study assesses the membrane topographical and structural effects of PM2.5 from incense PM2.5 exposure in real time on A549 lung carcinoma epithelial cells and SH-SY5Y neuroblastoma cells that had been fixed to preclude adaptive cell responses. The size distribution and mechanical properties of the PM2.5 sample were characterized with atomic force microscopy (AFM). Nanoscale morphological monitoring of the cell membranes utilizing scanning ion conductance microscopy (SICM) indicated statistically significant increasing membrane roughness at A549 cells at half an hour of exposure and visible damage at 4 h of exposure. In contrast, no significant increase in roughness was observed on SH-SY5Y cells after half an hour of PM2.5 exposure, although continued exposure to PM2.5 for up to 4 h affected an expansion of lesions already present before exposure commenced. These findings suggest that A549 cell membranes are more susceptible to structural damage by PM2.5 compared to SH-SY5Y cell membranes, corroborating more enhanced susceptibility of airway epithelial cells to exposure to PM2.5 than neuronal cells. SICM · Particulate matter · Membrane topography · Single-cell imaging 
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