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Exp Cell Res. 2002 Jan 15;272(2):153-62.

Fibroblast contractile force is independent of the stiffness which resists the contraction.

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Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 77 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139, USA.


Using a device named the cell force monitor, the contractile force developed by fibroblasts has been studied by measuring the macroscopic contraction of porous collagen-glycosaminoglycan (GAG) matrices over the first 24 h following cell attachment. In this paper, the effect of a variation in the stiffness that resists matrix contraction by cells on the contractile force generated by the cells was determined. Data from these experiments revealed that the contractile force generated by the fibroblasts was independent of the stiffness of the resistance within the range tested (0.7-10.7 N/m). These results suggest that during the time when fibroblasts are attaching to and spreading on collagen-GAG matrices the contractile forces they generate are force limited, not displacement limited. Therefore, the cytoskeletal mechanism of force generation, corresponding with cell elongation, is capable of increasing the displacement of adhesion sites in order to develop the same level of force. Although a detailed understanding of how the passive mechanical signals provided by substrate materials affect cell processes is still unavailable, in vitro modeling of cell-mediated contraction continues to provide useful information.

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