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Microsc Microanal. 2007 Apr;13(2):133-43.

Fractal and image analysis of morphological changes in the actin cytoskeleton of neonatal cardiac fibroblasts in response to mechanical stretch.

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  • 1Department of Cell and Developmental Biology and Anatomy, University of South Carolina, School of Medicine, Columbia, South Carolina 29209, USA.


Cardiac fibroblasts are the most numerous cells in the heart and are critical in the formation and normal functioning of the organ. Cardiac fibroblasts are firmly attached to and surrounded by extracellular matrix (ECM). Mechanical forces transmitted through interaction with the ECM can result in changes of overall cellular shape, cytoskeletal organization, proliferation, and gene expression of cardiac fibroblasts. These responses may be different in the normally functioning heart, when compared with various pathological conditions, including inflammation or hypertrophy. It is apparent that cellular phenotype and physiology, in turn, are affected by multiple signal transduction pathways modulated directly by the state of polymerization of the actin cytoskeleton. Morphological changes in actin organization resulting from response to adverse conditions in fibroblasts and other cell types are basically descriptive. Some studies have approached quantifying changes in actin cytoskeletal morphology, but these have involved complex and difficult procedures. In this study, we apply image analysis and non-Euclidian geometrical fractal analysis to quantify and describe changes induced in the actin cytoskeleton of cardiac fibroblasts responding to mechanical stress. Characterization of these rapid responses of fibroblasts to mechanical stress may provide insight into the regulation of fibroblasts behavior and gene expression during heart development and disease.

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