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Curr Opin Cell Biol. 2007 Feb;19(1):101-7. Epub 2006 Dec 15.

The cell as a material.

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Department of Physics & DEAS, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.


To elucidate the dynamic and functional role of a cell within the tissue it belongs to, it is essential to understand its material properties. The cell is a viscoelastic material with highly unusual properties. Measurements of the mechanical behavior of cells are beginning to probe the contribution of constituent components to cell mechanics. Reconstituted cytoskeletal protein networks have been shown to mimic many aspects of the mechanical properties of cells, providing new insight into the origin of cellular behavior. These networks are highly nonlinear, with an elastic modulus that depends sensitively on applied stress. Theories can account for some of the measured properties, but a complete model remains elusive.

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