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Biophys J. 2000 Nov;79(5):2353-68.

Cell mechanics studied by a reconstituted model tissue.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri 63110, USA.


Tissue models reconstituted from cells and extracellular matrix (ECM) simulate natural tissues. Cytoskeletal and matrix proteins govern the force exerted by a tissue and its stiffness. Cells regulate cytoskeletal structure and remodel ECM to produce mechanical changes during tissue development and wound healing. Characterization and control of mechanical properties of reconstituted tissues are essential for tissue engineering applications. We have quantitatively characterized mechanical properties of connective tissue models, fibroblast-populated matrices (FPMs), via uniaxial stretch measurements. FPMs resemble natural tissues in their exponential dependence of stress on strain and linear dependence of stiffness on force at a given strain. Activating cellular contractile forces by calf serum and disrupting F-actin by cytochalasin D yield "active" and "passive" components, which respectively emphasize cellular and matrix mechanical contributions. The strain-dependent stress and elastic modulus of the active component were independent of cell density above a threshold density. The same quantities for the passive component increased with cell number due to compression and reorganization of the matrix by the cells.

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