Tuning Cell and Tissue Development by Combining Multiple Mechanical Signals

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    Mechanical signals offer a promising way to control cell and tissue development. It has been established that cells constantly probe their mechanical microenvironment and employ force feedback mechanisms to modify themselves and when possible, their environment, to reach a homeostatic state. Thus, a correct mechanical microenvironment (external forces and mechanical properties and shapes of cellular surroundings) is necessary for the proper functioning of cells. In vitro or in the case of nonbiological implants in vivo, where cells are in an artificial environment, addition of the adequate mechanical signals can, therefore, enable the cells to function normally as in vivo. Hence, a wide variety of approaches have been developed to apply mechanical stimuli (such as substrate stretch, flow-induced shear stress, substrate stiffness, topography, and modulation of attachment area) to cells in vitro. These approaches have not just revealed the effects of the mechanical signals on cells but also provided ways for probing cellular molecules and structures that can provide a mechanistic understanding of the effects. However, they remain lower in complexity compared with the in vivo conditions, where the cellular mechanical microenvironment is the result of a combination of multiple mechanical signals. Therefore, combinations of mechanical stimuli have also been applied to cells in vitro. These studies have had varying focus—developing novel platforms to apply complex combinations of mechanical stimuli, observing the co-operation/competition between stimuli, combining benefits of multiple stimuli toward an application, or uncovering the underlying mechanisms of their action. In general, they provided new insights that could not have been predicted from previous knowledge. We present here a review of several such studies and the insights gained from them, thereby making a case for such studies to be continued and further developed.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)494-504
    Number of pages10
    JournalTissue engineering. Part B: Reviews
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2017


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