Send to

Choose Destination
Mol Biol Cell. 2014 Nov 5;25(22):3461-5. doi: 10.1091/mbc.E14-03-0784.

Emergent mechanics of biological structures.

Author information

Department of Cell and Tissue Biology and Department of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA 94143-0512
Department of Bioengineering, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305-4125.


Mechanical force organizes life at all scales, from molecules to cells and tissues. Although we have made remarkable progress unraveling the mechanics of life's individual building blocks, our understanding of how they give rise to the mechanics of larger-scale biological structures is still poor. Unlike the engineered macroscopic structures that we commonly build, biological structures are dynamic and self-organize: they sculpt themselves and change their own architecture, and they have structural building blocks that generate force and constantly come on and off. A description of such structures defies current traditional mechanical frameworks. It requires approaches that account for active force-generating parts and for the formation of spatial and temporal patterns utilizing a diverse array of building blocks. In this Perspective, we term this framework "emergent mechanics." Through examples at molecular, cellular, and tissue scales, we highlight challenges and opportunities in quantitatively understanding the emergent mechanics of biological structures and the need for new conceptual frameworks and experimental tools on the way ahead.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Atypon Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center