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PLoS One. 2012;7(5):e37178. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0037178. Epub 2012 May 16.

Mechanics regulates fate decisions of human embryonic stem cells.

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Integrated Biosystems and Biomechanics Laboratory, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States of America.


Research on human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) has attracted much attention given their great potential for tissue regenerative therapy and fundamental developmental biology studies. Yet, there is still limited understanding of how mechanical signals in the local cellular microenvironment of hESCs regulate their fate decisions. Here, we applied a microfabricated micromechanical platform to investigate the mechanoresponsive behaviors of hESCs. We demonstrated that hESCs are mechanosensitive, and they could increase their cytoskeleton contractility with matrix rigidity. Furthermore, rigid substrates supported maintenance of pluripotency of hESCs. Matrix mechanics-mediated cytoskeleton contractility might be functionally correlated with E-cadherin expressions in cell-cell contacts and thus involved in fate decisions of hESCs. Our results highlighted the important functional link between matrix rigidity, cellular mechanics, and pluripotency of hESCs and provided a novel approach to characterize and understand mechanotransduction and its involvement in hESC function.

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