Synthetic Materials in the Study of Cell Response to Substrate Rigidity

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Abstract

While it has long been understood that cells can sense and respond to a variety of stimuli, including soluble and insoluble factors, light, and externally applied mechanical stresses, the extent to which cells can sense and respond to the mechanical properties of their environment has only recently begun to be studied. Cell response to substrate stiffness has been suggested to play an important role in processes ranging from developmental morphogenesis to the pathogenesis of disease states and may have profound implications for cell and tissue culture and tissue engineering. Given the importance of this phenomenon, there is a clear need for systems for cell study in which substrate mechanics can be carefully defined and varied independently of biochemical and other signals. This review will highlight past work in the field of cell response to substrate rigidity as well as areas for future study.

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