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Microscale Interrogation of 3D Tissue Mechanics


Zhang JJian , Chada NCNeil C , Reinhart-King CACynthia A . Frontiers in bioengineering and biotechnology. 2019 12 17; 7(). 412


Cells live in a complex microenvironment composed of the extracellular matrix (ECM) and other cells. Growing evidence suggests that the mechanical interaction between the cells and their microenvironment is of critical importance to their behaviors under both normal and diseased conditions, such as migration, differentiation, and proliferation. The study of tissue mechanics in the past two decades, including the assessment of both mechanical properties and mechanical stresses of the extracellular microenvironment, has greatly enriched our knowledge about how cells interact with their mechanical environment. Tissue mechanical properties are often heterogeneous and sometimes anisotropic, which makes them difficult to obtain from macroscale bulk measurements. Mechanical stresses were first measured for cells cultured on two-dimensional (2D) surfaces with well-defined mechanical properties. While 2D measurements are relatively straightforward and efficient, and they have provided us with valuable knowledge on cell-ECM interactions, that knowledge may not be directly applicable to systems. Hence, the measurement of tissue stresses in a more physiologically relevant three-dimensional (3D) environment is required. In this mini review, we will summarize and discuss recent developments in using optical, magnetic, genetic, and mechanical approaches to interrogate 3D tissue stresses and mechanical properties at the microscale.