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Nat Methods. 2010 Dec;7(12):969-71. doi: 10.1038/nmeth.1531. Epub 2010 Nov 14.

Measurement of mechanical tractions exerted by cells in three-dimensional matrices.

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  • 1Department of Bioengineering, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.


Quantitative measurements of cell-generated forces have heretofore required that cells be cultured on two-dimensional substrates. We describe a technique to quantitatively measure three-dimensional traction forces exerted by cells fully encapsulated in well-defined elastic hydrogel matrices. Using this approach we measured traction forces for several cell types in various contexts and revealed patterns of force generation attributable to morphologically distinct regions of cells as they extend into the surrounding matrix.

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