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Biomatter. 2013 Jul-Sep;3(3). pii: e24650. doi: 10.4161/biom.24650. Epub 2013 Apr 1.

A novel device to stretch multiple tissue samples with variable patterns: application for mRNA regulation in tissue-engineered constructs.

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Department of Biomedical Engineering; Boston University; Boston, MA USA.
Department of Biochemistry; Boston University School of Medicine; Boston, MA USA.
Department of Biomedical Engineering; Boston University; Boston, MA USA; Department of Biochemistry; Boston University School of Medicine; Boston, MA USA.


A broad range of cells are subjected to irregular time varying mechanical stimuli within the body, particularly in the respiratory and circulatory systems. Mechanical stretch is an important factor in determining cell function; however, the effects of variable stretch remain unexplored. In order to investigate the effects of variable stretch, we designed, built and tested a uniaxial stretching device that can stretch three-dimensional tissue constructs while varying the strain amplitude from cycle to cycle. The device is the first to apply variable stretching signals to cells in tissues or three dimensional tissue constructs. Following device validation, we applied 20% uniaxial strain to Gelfoam samples seeded with neonatal rat lung fibroblasts with different levels of variability (0%, 25%, 50% and 75%). RT-PCR was then performed to measure the effects of variable stretch on key molecules involved in cell-matrix interactions including: collagen 1α, lysyl oxidase, α-actin, β1 integrin, β3 integrin, syndecan-4, and vascular endothelial growth factor-A. Adding variability to the stretching signal upregulated, downregulated or had no effect on mRNA production depending on the molecule and the amount of variability. In particular, syndecan-4 showed a statistically significant peak at 25% variability, suggesting that an optimal variability of strain may exist for production of this molecule. We conclude that cycle-by-cycle variability in strain influences the expression of molecules related to cell-matrix interactions and hence may be used to selectively tune the composition of tissue constructs.


extracellular matrix; mechanotransduction; signaling; stretch

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