The development of new tools and instruments for biomedical applications based on nano- (NEMS) or microelectromechanical systems technology (MEMS) are bridging the gap between the macro- and the nano-world. The well mastered microtechnique allows controlling many parameters of these instruments, which is essential for conducting reproducible and repeatable experiments in the life sciences. Examples are multifunctional scanning probe sensors for cell biology, an arthroscopic scanning force microscope for minimally invasive medical interventions and a nanopore sensor for single molecule experiments in biochemistry. This paper reviews some of the activities conducted in a fruitful interdisciplinary collaboration between physicists, engineers, biologists and physicians. © 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.