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Mech Chem Biosyst. 2004 Mar;1(1):53-68.

The mechanochemical basis of cell and tissue regulation.

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  • 1Harvard Medical School & Children's Hospital, Boston, MA, USA.


This article is a summary of a lecture presented at a symposium on "Mechanics and Chemistry of Biosystems" in honor of Professor Y.C. Fung that convened at the University of California, Irvine in February 2004. The article reviews work from our laboratory that focuses on the mechanism by which mechanical and chemical signals interplay to control how individual cells decide whether to grow, differentiate, move, or die, and thereby promote pattern formation during tissue morphogenesis. Pursuit of this challenge has required development and application of new microtechnologies, theoretical formulations, computational models and bioinformatics tools. These approaches have been used to apply controlled mechanical stresses to specific cell surface molecules and to measure mechanical and biochemical responses; to control cell shape independently of chemical factors; and to handle the structural, hierarchical and informational complexity of living cells. Results of these studies have changed our view of how cells and tissues control their shape and mechanical properties, and have led to the discovery that integrins and the cytoskeleton play a central role in cellular mechanotransduction. Recognition of these critical links between mechanics and cellular biochemistry should lead to novel strategies for the development of new drugs and engineered tissues, as well as biomimetic microdevices and nanotechnologies that more effectively function within the context of living tissues.

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