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Entry by Andrew Capulli, Fall 2011

Definition: Mechanotransduction

Mechanotransduction is the process of converting physical forces into intracellular biochemical responses. The rebirth of tissue engineering has made "mechanotransduction" a major buzzword in the field. Essentially, this term generally refers to the mechanical factors that influence cell behavior and differentiation.

Traditional biology and tissue engineering relied upon the influence of multiple growth factors and the chemical environment (ion concentration, pH, etc) of a cell to dictate the behavior and lineage of a cell. While these chemical factors are crucial to cell phenotype, just as important are the mechanical ques and environment a cell experiences. New-age tissue engineering focuses on both chemical and mechanical factors in the development of a cell. Stem cell based tissue therapies (the current state of research) attempt to differentiate pluripotent cells (such as embryonic stem cells or the less controversial mesenchymal stem cells found in bone marrow) by both adding known chemical factors such as cytokines and growth factors in addition to providing 'mechanically appropriate' environments for what types of tissue are being attempted. The stiffness of the extracellular matrix(material such as collagen that the cell attaches to) can strongly influence the lineage and behavior of a cell. Mesenchymal stem cells for example


[1] "The Role of Mechanical Forces in Guiding Tissue Differentiation, Chapter 5" Tissue Engineering in Regenerative Medicine, Sean Sheehy and Kit Parker (Harvard SEAS).

[2] "Matrix Elasticity Directs Stem Cell Lineage Specification" Adam J. Engler, Dennis E. Discher (UPenn) link:

Keyword in References:

Evidence for an upper limit to mitotic spindle length

Multiscale approach to link red blood cell dynamics, shear viscosity, and ATP release

N. Wang, Z. Suo," Long-distance propagation of forces in a cell." Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications 328, 1133-1138 (2005). Submitted for publication on 12 January 2005.Accepted for publication on 18 January 2005