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by Keyword: stiffness

Pereira, I, Lopez-Martinez, MJ, Samitier, J, (2023). Advances in current in vitro models on neurodegenerative diseases Frontiers In Bioengineering And Biotechnology 11, 1260397

Many neurodegenerative diseases are identified but their causes and cure are far from being well-known. The problem resides in the complexity of the neural tissue and its location which hinders its easy evaluation. Although necessary in the drug discovery process, in vivo animal models need to be reduced and show relevant differences with the human tissues that guide scientists to inquire about other possible options which lead to in vitro models being explored. From organoids to organ-on-a-chips, 3D models are considered the cutting-edge technology in cell culture. Cell choice is a big parameter to take into consideration when planning an in vitro model and cells capable of mimicking both healthy and diseased tissue, such as induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC), are recognized as good candidates. Hence, we present a critical review of the latest models used to study neurodegenerative disease, how these models have evolved introducing microfluidics platforms, 3D cell cultures, and the use of induced pluripotent cells to better mimic the neural tissue environment in pathological conditions.

JTD Keywords: 3d in vitro models, bioprinting, ipsc cell culture, microfluidic device, 3d in vitro models, Bioprinting, Blood-brain-barrier, Cerebral organoids, Culture model, Endothelial-cells, Expression profile, Extracellular-matrix, Ipsc cell culture, Microfluidic device, Neurodegenerative diseases, On-a-chip, Pluripotent stem-cells, Shear-stress, Substrate stiffness


Martínez-Blanco Á, Noé S, Carreras-Vidal L, Otero J, Gavara N, (2023). Cryosectioning of Hydrogels as a Reliable Approach to Increase Yield and Further Tune Mechanical Properties Gels 9, 834

Decellularized extracellular matrix (dECM) hydrogels have emerged as promising materials in tissue engineering. The steps to produce dECM hydrogels containing the bioactive epitopes found in the native matrix are often laborious, including the initial harvesting and decellularization of the animal organ. Furthermore, resulting hydrogels often exhibit weak mechanical properties that require the use of additional crosslinkers such as genipin to truly simulate the mechanical properties of the desired study tissue. In this work, we have developed a protocol to readily obtain tens of thin dECM hydrogel cryosections attached to a glass slide as support, to serve as scaffolds for two-dimensional (2D) or three-dimensional (3D) cell culture. Following extensive atomic force microscopy (AFM)-based mechanical characterization of dECM hydrogels crosslinked with increasing genipin concentrations (5 mM, 10 mM, and 20 mM), we provide detailed protocol recommendations for achieving dECM hydrogels of any biologically relevant stiffness. Given that our protocol requires hydrogel freezing, we also confirm that the approach taken can be further used to increase the mechanical properties of the scaffold in a controlled manner exhibiting twice the stiffness in highly crosslinked arrays. Finally, we explored the effect of ethanol-based short- and long-term sterilization on dECM hydrogels, showing that in some situations it may give rise to significant changes in hydrogel mechanical properties that need to be taken into account in experimental design. The hydrogel cryosections produced were shown to be biocompatible and support cell attachment and spreading for at least 72 h in culture. In brief, our proposed method may provide several advantages for tissue engineering: (1) easy availability and reduction in preparation time, (2) increase in the total hydrogel volume eventually used for experiments being able to obtain 15-22 slides from a 250 µL hydrogel) with a (3) reduction in scaffold variability (only a 17.5 ± 9.5% intraslide variability provided by the method), and (4) compatibility with live-cell imaging techniques or further cell characterization of cells.

JTD Keywords: atomic force microscopy, cryogel, cryosectioning, decellularization, extracellular matrix, genipin, sterilization, stiffness, young's modulus, Atomic force microscopy, Cryogel, Cryosectioning, Decellularization, Extracellular matrix, Genipin, Hydrogel, Sterilization, Stiffness, Young’s modulus


Pérez-Domínguez S, Kulkarni SG, Pabijan J, Gnanachandran K, Holuigue H, Eroles M, Lorenc E, Berardi M, Antonovaite N, Marini ML, Lopez Alonso J, Redonto-Morata L, Dupres V, Janel S, Acharya S, Otero J, Navajas D, Bielawski K, Schillers H, Lafont F, Rico F, Podestà A, Radmacher M, Lekka M, (2023). Reliable, standardized measurements for cell mechanical properties Nanoscale 15, 16371-16380

Atomic force microscopy (AFM) has become indispensable for studying biological and medical samples. More than two decades of experiments have revealed that cancer cells are softer than healthy cells (for measured cells cultured on stiff substrates). The softness or, more precisely, the larger deformability of cancer cells, primarily independent of cancer types, could be used as a sensitive marker of pathological changes. The wide application of biomechanics in clinics would require designing instruments with specific calibration, data collection, and analysis procedures. For these reasons, such development is, at present, still very limited, hampering the clinical exploitation of mechanical measurements. Here, we propose a standardized operational protocol (SOP), developed within the EU ITN network Phys2BioMed, which allows the detection of the biomechanical properties of living cancer cells regardless of the nanoindentation instruments used (AFMs and other indenters) and the laboratory involved in the research. We standardized the cell cultures, AFM calibration, measurements, and data analysis. This effort resulted in a step-by-step SOP for cell cultures, instrument calibration, measurements, and data analysis, leading to the concordance of the results (Young's modulus) measured among the six EU laboratories involved. Our results highlight the importance of the SOP in obtaining a reproducible mechanical characterization of cancer cells and paving the way toward exploiting biomechanics for diagnostic purposes in clinics.

JTD Keywords: afm indentation, cancer cells, elastic-moduli, samples, stiffness, Atomic-force microscopy


Malandain, N, Sanz-Fraile, H, Farre, R, Otero, J, Roig, A, Laromaine, A, (2023). Cell-Laden 3D Hydrogels of Type I Collagen Incorporating Bacterial Nanocellulose Fibers Acs Applied Bio Materials 6, 3638-3647

There is a growing interest in developing natural hydrogel-based scaffolds to culture cells in a three-dimensional (3D) millieu that better mimics the in vivo cells' microenvironment. A promising approach is to use hydrogels from animal tissues, such as decellularized extracellular matrices; however, they usually exhibit suboptimal mechanical properties compared to native tissue and their composition with hundreds of different protein complicates to elucidate which stimulus triggers cell's responses. As simpler scaffolds, type I collagen hydrogels are used to study cell behavior in mechanobiology even though they are also softer than native tissues. In this work, type I collagen is mixed with bacterial nanocellulose fibers (BCf) to develop reinforced scaffolds with mechanical properties suitable for 3D cell culture. BCf were produced from blended pellicles biosynthesized from Komagataeibacter xylinus. Then, BCf were mixed with concentrated collagen from rat-tail tendons to form composite hydrogels. Confocal laser scanning microscopy and scanning electron microscopy images confirmed the homogeneous macro- and microdistribution of both natural polymers. Porosity analysis confirmed that BCf do not disrupt the scaffold structure. Tensile strength and rheology measurements demonstrated the reinforcement action of BCf (43% increased stiffness) compared to the collagen hydrogel while maintaining the same viscoelastic response. Additionally, this reinforcement of collagen hydrogels with BCf offers the possibility to mix cells before gelation and then proceed to the culture of the 3D cell scaffolds. We obtained scaffolds with human bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stromal cells or human fibroblasts within the composite hydrogels, allowing a homogeneous 3D viable culture for at least 7 days. A smaller surface shrinkage in the reinforced hydrogels compared to type I collagen hydrogels confirmed the strengthening of the composite hydrogels. These collagen hydrogels reinforced with BCf might emerge as a promising platform for 3D in vitro organ modeling, tissue-engineering applications, and suitable to conduct fundamental mechanobiology studies.

JTD Keywords: 3d cell culture, bacterial cellulose, collagen, composite hydrogels, 3d cell culture, Bacterial cellulose, Cellulose/collagen composite, Collagen, Composite hydrogels, Contraction, Cross-linking, Cytocompatibility, Fibroblasts, Matrix, Mechanical-properties, Reinforcement, Stiffness, Tissue engineering


Colombi S, Macor LP, Ortiz-Membrado L, Pérez-Amodio S, Jiménez-Piqué E, Engel E, Pérez-Madrigal MM, García-Torres J, Alemán C, (2023). Enzymatic Degradation of Polylactic Acid Fibers Supported on a Hydrogel for Sustained Release of Lactate Acs Applied Bio Materials 6, 3889-3901

The incorporation of exogenous lactate into cardiac tissues is a regenerative strategy that is rapidly gaining attention. In this work, two polymeric platforms were designed to achieve a sustained release of lactate, combining immediate and prolonged release profiles. Both platforms contained electrospun poly(lactic acid) (PLA) fibers and an alginate (Alg) hydrogel. In the first platform, named L/K(x)/Alg-PLA, lactate and proteinase K (x mg of enzyme per 1 g of PLA) were directly loaded into the Alg hydrogel, into which PLA fibers were assembled. In the second platform, L/Alg-K(x)/PLA, fibers were produced by electrospinning a proteinase K:PLA solution and, subsequently, assembled within the lactate-loaded hydrogel. After characterizing the chemical, morphological, and mechanical properties of the systems, as well as their cytotoxicity, the release profiles of the two platforms were determined considering different amounts of proteinase K (x = 5.2, 26, and 52 mg of proteinase K per 1 g of PLA), which is known to exhibit a broad cleavage activity. The profiles obtained using L/Alg-K(x)/PLA platforms with x = 26 and 52 were the closest to the criteria that must be met for cardiac tissue regeneration. Finally, the amount of lactate directly loaded in the Alg hydrogel for immediate release and the amount of protein in the electrospinning solution were adapted to achieve a constant lactate release of around 6 mM per day over 1 or 2 weeks. In the optimized bioplatform, in which 6 mM lactate was loaded in the hydrogel, the amount of fibers was increased by a factor of ×3, the amount of enzyme was adjusted to 40 mg per 1 g of PLA, and a daily lactate release of 5.9 ± 2.7 mM over a period of 11 days was achieved. Accordingly, the engineered device fully satisfied the characteristics and requirements for heart tissue regeneration.

JTD Keywords: biodegradable fibers, cardiac tissue regeneration, cell, drug-release, elastic-modulus, electrospinning, heart, nanoindentation, plasma treatment, proteinase, scaffold, stiffness, Alginate, Biodegradable fibers, Cardiac tissue regeneration, Electrospinning, Nanoindentation, Plasma treatment, Proteinase, Skeletal-muscle


Pesce M, Duda GN, Forte G, Girao H, Raya A, Roca-Cusachs P, Sluijter JPG, Tschöpe C, Van Linthout S, (2023). Cardiac fibroblasts and mechanosensation in heart development, health and disease Nature Reviews Cardiology 20, 309-324

The term 'mechanosensation' describes the capacity of cells to translate mechanical stimuli into the coordinated regulation of intracellular signals, cellular function, gene expression and epigenetic programming. This capacity is related not only to the sensitivity of the cells to tissue motion, but also to the decryption of tissue geometric arrangement and mechanical properties. The cardiac stroma, composed of fibroblasts, has been historically considered a mechanically passive component of the heart. However, the latest research suggests that the mechanical functions of these cells are an active and necessary component of the developmental biology programme of the heart that is involved in myocardial growth and homeostasis, and a crucial determinant of cardiac repair and disease. In this Review, we discuss the general concept of cell mechanosensation and force generation as potent regulators in heart development and pathology, and describe the integration of mechanical and biohumoral pathways predisposing the heart to fibrosis and failure. Next, we address the use of 3D culture systems to integrate tissue mechanics to mimic cardiac remodelling. Finally, we highlight the potential of mechanotherapeutic strategies, including pharmacological treatment and device-mediated left ventricular unloading, to reverse remodelling in the failing heart.© 2022. Springer Nature Limited.

JTD Keywords: cardiomyocyte proliferation, cross-linking, extracellular-matrix, focal adhesions, gene-expression, mechanical regulation, myocardial-infarction, substrate stiffness affects, t-cells, Ventricular assist device


Narciso, M, Martínez, A, Júnior, C, Díaz-Valdivia, N, Ulldemolins, A, Berardi, M, Neal, K, Navajas, D, Farré, R, Alcaraz, J, Almendros, I, Gavara, N, (2023). Lung Micrometastases Display ECM Depletion and Softening While Macrometastases Are 30-Fold Stiffer and Enriched in Fibronectin Cancers 15, 2404

Mechanical changes in tumors have long been linked to increased malignancy and therapy resistance and attributed to mechanical changes in the tumor extracellular matrix (ECM). However, to the best of our knowledge, there have been no mechanical studies on decellularized tumors. Here, we studied the biochemical and mechanical progression of the tumor ECM in two models of lung metastases: lung carcinoma (CAR) and melanoma (MEL). We decellularized the metastatic lung sections, measured the micromechanics of the tumor ECM, and stained the sections for ECM proteins, proliferation, and cell death markers. The same methodology was applied to MEL mice treated with the clinically approved anti-fibrotic drug nintedanib. When compared to healthy ECM (~0.40 kPa), CAR and MEL lung macrometastases produced a highly dense and stiff ECM (1.79 ± 1.32 kPa, CAR and 6.39 ± 3.37 kPa, MEL). Fibronectin was overexpressed from the early stages (~118%) to developed macrometastases (~260%) in both models. Surprisingly, nintedanib caused a 4-fold increase in ECM-occupied tumor area (5.1 ± 1.6% to 18.6 ± 8.9%) and a 2-fold in-crease in ECM stiffness (6.39 ± 3.37 kPa to 12.35 ± 5.74 kPa). This increase in stiffness strongly correlated with an increase in necrosis, which reveals a potential link between tumor hypoxia and ECM deposition and stiffness. Our findings highlight fibronectin and tumor ECM mechanics as attractive targets in cancer therapy and support the need to identify new anti-fibrotic drugs to abrogate aberrant ECM mechanics in metastases.

JTD Keywords: atomic force microscopy, basement membrane, breast-cancer, decellularization, expression, extracellular matrix, extracellular-matrix, fibronectin, intermittent hypoxia, lung carcinoma, lung metastases, melanoma, metastatic niche formation, micromechanical properties, nintedanib, signature, stiffness, tumor-growth, Colorectal-cancer progression, Lung metastases, Stiffness


Comelles, J, Fernández-Majada, V, Acevedo, V, Rebollo-Calderon, B, Martínez, E, (2023). Soft topographical patterns trigger a stiffness-dependent cellular response to contact guidance Materials Today Bio 19, 100593

Topographical patterns are a powerful tool to study directional migration. Grooved substrates have been extensively used as in vitro models of aligned extracellular matrix fibers because they induce cell elongation, alignment, and migration through a phenomenon known as contact guidance. This process, which involves the orientation of focal adhesions, F-actin, and microtubule cytoskeleton along the direction of the grooves, has been primarily studied on hard materials of non-physiological stiffness. But how it unfolds when the stiffness of the grooves varies within the physiological range is less known. Here we show that substrate stiffness modulates the cellular response to topographical contact guidance. We find that for fibroblasts, while focal adhesions and actin respond to topography independently of the stiffness, microtubules show a stiffness-dependent response that regulates contact guidance. On the other hand, both clusters and single breast carcinoma epithelial cells display stiffness-dependent contact guidance, leading to more directional and efficient migration when increasing substrate stiffness. These results suggest that both matrix stiffening and alignment of extracellular matrix fibers cooperate during directional cell migration, and that the outcome differs between cell types depending on how they organize their cytoskeletons.© 2023 The Authors.

JTD Keywords: actin, behavior, cell migration, contact guidance, cytoskeleton, fibroblasts, focal adhesions, matrix, microtubules, stiffness, stress fibers, topography, transduction, Contact guidance, Substrate stiffness, Topography


Pereira, I, Lopez-Martinez, MJ, Villasante, A, Introna, C, Tornero, D, Canals, JM, Samitier, J, (2023). Hyaluronic acid-based bioink improves the differentiation and network formation of neural progenitor cells Frontiers In Bioengineering And Biotechnology 11, 1110547

Introduction: Three-dimensional (3D) bioprinting is a promising technique for the development of neuronal in vitro models because it controls the deposition of materials and cells. Finding a biomaterial that supports neural differentiation in vitro while ensuring compatibility with the technique of 3D bioprinting of a self-standing construct is a challenge.Methods: In this study, gelatin methacryloyl (GelMA), methacrylated alginate (AlgMA), and hyaluronic acid (HA) were examined by exploiting their biocompatibility and tunable mechanical properties to resemble the extracellular matrix (ECM) and to create a suitable material for printing neural progenitor cells (NPCs), supporting their long-term differentiation. NPCs were printed and differentiated for up to 15 days, and cell viability and neuronal differentiation markers were assessed throughout the culture.Results and Discussion: This composite biomaterial presented the desired physical properties to mimic the ECM of the brain with high water intake, low stiffness, and slow degradation while allowing the printing of defined structures. The viability rates were maintained at approximately 80% at all time points. However, the levels of beta-III tubulin marker increased over time, demonstrating the compatibility of this biomaterial with neuronal cell culture and differentiation. Furthermore, these cells showed increased maturation with corresponding functional properties, which was also demonstrated by the formation of a neuronal network that was observed by recording spontaneous activity via Ca2+ imaging.

JTD Keywords: biomaterials, bioprinting, differentiation, in vitro models, neural progenitor cells, 2d, Biomaterials, Bioprinting, C17.2, Differentiation, Extracellular-matrix, Hydrogels, In vitro models, In-vitro, Neural progenitor cells, Neuronal models, Proliferation, Scaffolds, Stem-cells, Substrate stiffness


Pallares, ME, Pi-Jauma, I, Fortunato, IC, Grazu, V, Gomez-Gonzalez, M, Roca-Cusachs, P, de la Fuente, JM, Alert, R, Sunyer, R, Casademunt, J, Trepat, X, (2023). Stiffness-dependent active wetting enables optimal collective cell durotaxis Nature Physics 19, 279-+

The directed migration of cellular clusters enables morphogenesis, wound healing and collective cancer invasion. Gradients of substrate stiffness direct the migration of cellular clusters in a process called collective durotaxis, but the underlying mechanisms remain unclear. Here we unveil a connection between collective durotaxis and the wetting properties of cellular clusters. We show that clusters of cancer cells dewet soft substrates and wet stiff ones. At intermediate stiffness-at the crossover from low to high wettability-clusters on uniform-stiffness substrates become maximally motile, and clusters on stiffness gradients exhibit optimal durotaxis. Durotactic velocity increases with cluster size, stiffness gradient and actomyosin activity. We demonstrate this behaviour on substrates coated with the cell-cell adhesion protein E-cadherin and then establish its generality on substrates coated with extracellular matrix. We develop an active wetting model that explains collective durotaxis in terms of a balance between in-plane active traction and tissue contractility and out-of-plane surface tension. Finally, we show that the distribution of cluster displacements has a heavy tail, with infrequent but large cellular hops that contribute to durotactic migration. Our study demonstrates a physical mechanism of collective durotaxis, through both cell-cell and cell-substrate adhesion ligands, based on the wetting properties of active droplets.

JTD Keywords: Adhesion, Dynamics, E-cadherin, Gradient, Migration, Model, Motility, Movements, Rigidity, Substrate stiffness


Elosegui-Artola A, Gupta A, Najibi AJ, Seo BR, Garry R, Tringides CM, de Lázaro I, Darnell M, Gu W, Zhou Q, Weitz DA, Mahadevan L, Mooney DJ, (2023). Matrix viscoelasticity controls spatiotemporal tissue organization Nature Materials 22, 117-+

Biomolecular and physical cues of the extracellular matrix environment regulate collective cell dynamics and tissue patterning. Nonetheless, how the viscoelastic properties of the matrix regulate collective cell spatial and temporal organization is not fully understood. Here we show that the passive viscoelastic properties of the matrix encapsulating a spheroidal tissue of breast epithelial cells guide tissue proliferation in space and in time. Matrix viscoelasticity prompts symmetry breaking of the spheroid, leading to the formation of invading finger-like protrusions, YAP nuclear translocation and epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition both in vitro and in vivo in a Arp2/3-complex-dependent manner. Computational modelling of these observations allows us to establish a phase diagram relating morphological stability with matrix viscoelasticity, tissue viscosity, cell motility and cell division rate, which is experimentally validated by biochemical assays and in vitro experiments with an intestinal organoid. Altogether, this work highlights the role of stress relaxation mechanisms in tissue growth dynamics, a fundamental process in morphogenesis and oncogenesis.© 2022. The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Limited.

JTD Keywords: in-vitro, migration, morphogenesis, stiffness, Intestinal stem-cell


Júnior, C, Ulldemolins, A, Narciso, M, Almendros, I, Farré, R, Navajas, D, López, J, Eroles, M, Rico, F, Gavara, N, (2023). Multi-Step Extracellular Matrix Remodelling and Stiffening in the Development of Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis International Journal Of Molecular Sciences 24, 1708

The extracellular matrix (ECM) of the lung is a filamentous network composed mainly of collagens, elastin, and proteoglycans that provides structural and physical support to its populating cells. Proliferation, migration and overall behaviour of those cells is greatly determined by micromechanical queues provided by the ECM. Lung fibrosis displays an aberrant increased deposition of ECM which likely changes filament organization and stiffens the ECM, thus upregulating the profibrotic profile of pulmonary cells. We have previously used AFM to assess changes in the Young’s Modulus (E) of the ECM in the lung. Here, we perform further ECM topographical, mechanical and viscoelastic analysis at the micro- and nano-scale throughout fibrosis development. Furthermore, we provide nanoscale correlations between topographical and elastic properties of the ECM fibres. Firstly, we identify a softening of the ECM after rats are instilled with media associated with recovery of mechanical homeostasis, which is hindered in bleomycin-instilled lungs. Moreover, we find opposite correlations between fibre stiffness and roughness in PBS- vs bleomycin-treated lung. Our findings suggest that changes in ECM nanoscale organization take place at different stages of fibrosis, with the potential to help identify pharmacological targets to hinder its progression.

JTD Keywords: atomic force microscopy, cells, deposition, extracellular matrix, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, mechanisms, mechanosensing, membranes, micromechanical properties, pathogenesis, stiffness, tissues, viscoelasticity, Extracellular matrix, Induced lung fibrosis, Mechanosensing


Lolo FN, Pavón DM, Grande-García A, Elosegui-Artola A, Segatori VI, Sánchez S, Trepat X, Roca-Cusachs P, Del Pozo MA, (2022). Caveolae couple mechanical stress to integrin recycling and activation Elife 11,

Cells are subjected to multiple mechanical inputs throughout their lives. Their ability to detect these environmental cues is called mechanosensing, a process in which integrins play an important role. During cellular mechanosensing, plasma membrane (PM) tension is adjusted to mechanical stress through the buffering action of caveolae; however, little is known about the role of caveolae in early integrin mechanosensing regulation. Here, we show that Cav1KO fibroblasts increase adhesion to FN-coated beads when pulled with magnetic tweezers, as compared to wild type fibroblasts. This phenotype is Rho-independent and mainly derived from increased active b1-integrin content on the surface of Cav1KO fibroblasts. FRAP analysis and endocytosis/recycling assays revealed that active b1-integrin is mostly endocytosed through the CLIC/GEEC pathway and is more rapidly recycled to the PM in Cav1KO fibroblasts, in a Rab4 and PM tension-dependent manner. Moreover, the threshold for PM tension-driven b1-integrin activation is lower in Cav1KO MEFs than in wild type MEFs, through a mechanism dependent on talin activity. Our findings suggest that caveolae couple mechanical stress to integrin cycling and activation, thereby regulating the early steps of the cellular mechanosensing response.© 2022, Lolo et al.

JTD Keywords: adhesion, alpha-v-beta-3, cell, integrin activation, internalization, kinase, mechanosensing, mediated endocytosis, mouse, stiffness, talin, trafficking, Cell biology, Integrin activation, Integrin recycling, Mechanosensing, Membrane tension, Mouse


Beedle, AEM, Roca-Cusachs, P, (2022). In search of a softer environment Nature Materials 21, 995-996

By maximizing cell-substrate force transmission, cancer cells can migrate towards either stiffer or softer substrate regions.

JTD Keywords: Durotaxis, Stiffness


Dias JMS, Estima D, Punte H, Klingner A, Marques L, Magdanz V, Khalil ISM, (2022). Modeling and Characterization of the Passive Bending Stiffness of Nanoparticle-Coated Sperm Cells using Magnetic Excitation Advanced Theory And Simulations 5,

Of all the various locomotion strategies in low- (Formula presented.), traveling-wave propulsion methods with an elastic tail are preferred because they can be developed using simple designs and fabrication procedures. The only intrinsic property of the elastic tail that governs the form and rate of wave propagation along its length is the bending stiffness. Such traveling wave motion is performed by spermatozoa, which possess a tail that is characterized by intrinsic variable stiffness along its length. In this paper, the passive bending stiffness of the magnetic nanoparticle-coated flagella of bull sperm cells is measured using a contactless electromagnetic-based excitation method. Numerical elasto-hydrodynamic models are first developed to predict the magnetic excitation and relaxation of nanoparticle-coated nonuniform flagella. Then solutions are provided for various groups of nonuniform flagella with disparate nanoparticle coatings that relate their bending stiffness to their decay rate after the magnetic field is removed and the flagellum restores its original configuration. The numerical models are verified experimentally, and capture the effect of the nanoparticle coating on the bending stiffness. It is also shown that electrostatic self-assembly enables arbitrarily magnetizable cellular segments with variable stiffness along the flagellum. The bending stiffness is found to depend on the number and location of the magnetized cellular segments. © 2022 The Authors. Advanced Theory and Simulations published by Wiley-VCH GmbH.

JTD Keywords: cilia, flagella, flagellar propulsion, low reynolds numbers, magnetic, microswimmers, passive, sperm cell, Bending stiffness, Cells, Cellulars, Coatings, Decay (organic), Electric excitation, Excited states, Flagellar propulsion, Locomotion strategies, Low reynolds numbers, Magnetic, Magnetic excitations, Nanoparticle coatings, Passive, Propulsion methods, Self assembly, Simple++, Sperm cell, Sperm cells, Stiffness, Travelling waves, Variable stiffness, Wave propagation, Younǵs modulus


Beltran, G, Navajas, D, García-Aznar, JM, (2022). Mechanical modeling of lung alveoli: From macroscopic behaviour to cell mechano-sensing at microscopic level Journal Of The Mechanical Behavior Of Biomedical Materials 126, 105043

The mechanical signals sensed by the alveolar cells through the changes in the local matrix stiffness of the extracellular matrix (ECM) are determinant for regulating cellular functions. Therefore, the study of the mechanical response of lung tissue becomes a fundamental aspect in order to further understand the mechanosensing signals perceived by the cells in the alveoli. This study is focused on the development of a finite element (FE) model of a decellularized rat lung tissue strip, which reproduces accurately the mechanical behaviour observed in the experiments by means of a tensile test. For simulating the complex structure of the lung parenchyma, which consists of a heterogeneous and non-uniform network of thin-walled alveoli, a 3D model based on a Voronoi tessellation is developed. This Voronoi-based model is considered very suitable for recreating the geometry of cellular materials with randomly distributed polygons like in the lung tissue. The material model used in the mechanical simulations of the lung tissue was characterized experimentally by means of AFM tests in order to evaluate the lung tissue stiffness on the micro scale. Thus, in this study, the micro (AFM test) and the macro scale (tensile test) mechanical behaviour are linked through the mechanical simulation with the 3D FE model based on Voronoi tessellation. Finally, a micro-mechanical FE-based model is generated from the Voronoi diagram for studying the stiffness sensed by the alveolar cells in function of two independent factors: the stretch level of the lung tissue and the geometrical position of the cells on the extracellular matrix (ECM), distinguishing between pneumocyte type I and type II. We conclude that the position of the cells within the alveolus has a great influence on the local stiffness perceived by the cells. Alveolar cells located at the corners of the alveolus, mainly type II pneumocytes, perceive a much higher stiffness than those located in the flat areas of the alveoli, which correspond to type I pneumocytes. However, the high stiffness, due to the macroscopic lung tissue stretch, affects both cells in a very similar form, thus no significant differences between them have been observed. © 2021 The Authors

JTD Keywords: rat, scaffolds, stiffness, Afm, Animal cell, Animal experiment, Animal model, Animal tissue, Article, Biological organs, Cell function, Cells, Computational geometry, Cytology, Extracellular matrices, Extracellular matrix, Extracellular-matrix, Geometry, High stiffness, Human, Lung alveolus cell type 1, Lung alveolus cell type 2, Lung parenchyma, Lung tissue, Male, Mechanical behavior, Mechanical modeling, Mechanical simulations, Mechanosensing, Model-based opc, Nonhuman, Physical model, Rat, Rigidity, Stiffness, Stiffness matrix, Tensile testing, Thin walled structures, Three dimensional finite element analysis, Tissue, Type ii, Voronoi tessellations


Guix, M, Mestre, R, Patiño, T, De Corato, M, Fuentes, J, Zarpellon, G, Sánchez, S, (2021). Biohybrid soft robots with self-stimulating skeletons Science Robotics 6, eabe7577

Bioinspired hybrid soft robots that combine living and synthetic components are an emerging field in the development of advanced actuators and other robotic platforms (i.e., swimmers, crawlers, and walkers). The integration of biological components offers unique characteristics that artificial materials cannot precisely replicate, such as adaptability and response to external stimuli. Here, we present a skeletal muscle–based swimming biobot with a three-dimensional (3D)–printed serpentine spring skeleton that provides mechanical integrity and self-stimulation during the cell maturation process. The restoring force inherent to the spring system allows a dynamic skeleton compliance upon spontaneous muscle contraction, leading to a cyclic mechanical stimulation process that improves the muscle force output without external stimuli. Optimization of the 3D-printed skeletons is carried out by studying the geometrical stiffnesses of different designs via finite element analysis. Upon electrical actuation of the muscle tissue, two types of motion mechanisms are experimentally observed: directional swimming when the biobot is at the liquid-air interface and coasting motion when it is near the bottom surface. The integrated compliant skeleton provides both the mechanical self-stimulation and the required asymmetry for directional motion, displaying its maximum velocity at 5 hertz (800 micrometers per second, 3 body lengths per second). This skeletal muscle–based biohybrid swimmer attains speeds comparable with those of cardiac-based biohybrid robots and outperforms other muscle-based swimmers. The integration of serpentine-like structures in hybrid robotic systems allows self-stimulation processes that could lead to higher force outputs in current and future biomimetic robotic platforms. Copyright © 2021 The Authors, some rights reserved;

JTD Keywords: actuators, design, fabrication, mechanics, mems, myotubes, platform, tissue, 3d printers, Agricultural robots, Biological components, Biomimetic processes, Electrical actuation, Geometrical stiffness, Intelligent robots, Liquefied gases, Liquid-air interface, Mechanical integrity, Mechanical stimulation, Muscle, Muscle contractions, Phase interfaces, Robotics, Serpentine, Springs (components), Threedimensional (3-d)


Guixé-Muntet, Sergi, Ortega-Ribera, Martí, Wang, Cong, Selicean, Sonia, Andreu, Ion, Kechagia, Jenny Z., Fondevila, Constantino, Roca-Cusachs, Pere, Dufour, Jean-François, Bosch, Jaime, Berzigotti, Annalisa, Gracia-Sancho, Jordi, (2020). Nuclear deformation mediates liver cell mechanosensing in cirrhosis JHEP Reports 2, (5), 100145

Background & AimsLiver stiffness is increased in advanced chronic liver disease (ACLD) and accurately predicts prognosis in this population. Recent data suggest that extracellular matrix stiffness per se may modulate the phenotype of liver cells. We aimed at investigating the effect of matrix stiffness on the phenotype of liver cells of rats with cirrhosis, assessing its influence on their response to antifibrotic strategies and evaluating associated molecular mechanisms.

JTD Keywords: Chronic liver disease, Hepatocyte, HSC, LSEC, Stiffness


Farré, N., Otero, J., Falcones, B., Torres, M., Jorba, I., Gozal, D., Almendros, I., Farré, R., Navajas, D., (2018). Intermittent hypoxia mimicking sleep apnea increases passive stiffness of myocardial extracellular matrix. A multiscale study Frontiers in Physiology 9, Article 1143

Background: Tissue hypoxia-reoxygenation characterizes obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a very prevalent respiratory disease associated with increased cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. Experimental studies indicate that intermittent hypoxia (IH) mimicking OSA induces oxidative stress and inflammation in heart tissue at the cell and molecular levels. However, it remains unclear whether IH modifies the passive stiffness of the cardiac tissue extracellular matrix (ECM). Aim: To investigate multiscale changes of stiffness induced by chronic IH in the ECM of left ventricular (LV) myocardium in a murine model of OSA. Methods: Two-month and 18-month old mice (N = 10 each) were subjected to IH (20% O2 40 s–6% O2 20 s) for 6 weeks (6 h/day). Corresponding control groups for each age were kept under normoxia. Fresh LV myocardial strips (~7 mm × 1 mm × 1 mm) were prepared, and their ECM was obtained by decellularization. Myocardium ECM macroscale mechanics were measured by performing uniaxial stress–strain tensile tests. Strip macroscale stiffness was assessed as the stress value (σ) measured at 0.2 strain and Young’s modulus (EM) computed at 0.2 strain by fitting Fung’s constitutive model to the stress–strain relationship. ECM stiffness was characterized at the microscale as the Young’s modulus (Em) measured in decellularized tissue slices (~12 μm tick) by atomic force microscopy. Results: Intermittent hypoxia induced a ~1.5-fold increase in σ (p < 0.001) and a ~2.5-fold increase in EM (p < 0.001) of young mice as compared with normoxic controls. In contrast, no significant differences emerged in Em among IH-exposed and normoxic mice. Moreover, the mechanical effects of IH on myocardial ECM were similar in young and aged mice. Conclusion: The marked IH-induced increases in macroscale stiffness of LV myocardium ECM suggests that the ECM plays a role in the cardiac dysfunction induced by OSA. Furthermore, absence of any significant effects of IH on the microscale ECM stiffness suggests that the significant increases in macroscale stiffening are primarily mediated by 3D structural ECM remodeling.

JTD Keywords: Atomic force microscopy, Heart mechanics, Myocardial stiffness, Obstructive sleep apnea, Tensile test, Ventricular strain


Menal, M. J., Jorba, I., Torres, M., Montserrat, J. M., Gozal, D., Colell, A., Piñol-Ripoll, G., Navajas, D., Almendros, I., Farré, R., (2018). Alzheimer's disease mutant mice exhibit reduced brain tissue stiffness compared to wild-type mice in both normoxia and following intermittent hypoxia mimicking sleep apnea Frontiers in Neurology 9, Article 1

Background: Evidence from patients and animal models suggests that obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) may increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and that AD is associated with reduced brain tissue stiffness. Aim: To investigate whether intermittent hypoxia (IH) alters brain cortex tissue stiffness in AD mutant mice exposed to IH mimicking OSA. Methods: Six-eight month old (B6C3-Tg(APPswe,PSEN1dE9)85Dbo/J) AD mutant mice and wild-type (WT) littermates were subjected to IH (21% O2 40 s to 5% O2 20 s; 6 h/day) or normoxia for 8 weeks. After euthanasia, the stiffness (E) of 200-μm brain cortex slices was measured by atomic force microscopy. Results: Two-way ANOVA indicated significant cortical softening and weight increase in AD mice compared to WT littermates, but no significant effects of IH on cortical stiffness and weight were detected. In addition, reduced myelin was apparent in AD (vs. WT), but no significant differences emerged in the cortex extracellular matrix components laminin and glycosaminoglycans when comparing baseline AD and WT mice. Conclusion: AD mutant mice exhibit reduced brain tissue stiffness following both normoxia and IH mimicking sleep apnea, and such differences are commensurate with increased edema and demyelination in AD.

JTD Keywords: Animal model, Atomic force microscopy, Brain mechanics, Cortex stiffness, Neurodegenerative disease


Jorba, I., Menal, M. J., Torres, M., Gozal, D., Piñol-Ripoll, G., Colell, A., Montserrat, J. M., Navajas, D., Farré, R., Almendros, I., (2017). Ageing and chronic intermittent hypoxia mimicking sleep apnea do not modify local brain tissue stiffness in healthy mice Journal of the Mechanical Behavior of Biomedical Materials , 71, 106-113

Recent evidence suggests that obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) may increase the risk of Alzheimer´s disease (AD), with the latter promoting alterations in brain tissue stiffness, a feature of ageing. Here, we assessed the effects of age and intermittent hypoxia (IH) on brain tissue stiffness in a mouse model of OSA. Two-month-old and 18-month-old mice (N=10 each) were subjected to IH (20% O2 40 s – 6% O2 20 s) for 8 weeks (6 h/day). Corresponding control groups for each age were kept under normoxic conditions in room air (RA). After sacrifice, the brain was excised and 200-micron coronal slices were cut with a vibratome. Local stiffness of the cortex and hippocampus were assessed in brain slices placed in an Atomic Force Microscope. For both brain regions, the Young's modulus (E) in each animal was computed as the average values from 9 force-indentation curves. Cortex E mean (±SE) values were 442±122 Pa (RA) and 455±120 (IH) for young mice and 433±44 (RA) and 405±101 (IH) for old mice. Hippocampal E values were 376±62 (RA) and 474±94 (IH) for young mice and 486±93 (RA) and 521±210 (IH) for old mice. For both cortex and hippocampus, 2-way ANOVA indicated no statistically significant effects of age or challenge (IH vs. RA) on E values. Thus, neither chronic IH mimicking OSA nor ageing up to late middle age appear to modify local brain tissue stiffness in otherwise healthy mice.

JTD Keywords: Atomic Force Microscopy, Brain mechanics, Cortex stiffness, Hippocampus stiffness, Obstructive sleep apnea, Young's modulus


Ladoux, B., Mège, R. M., Trepat, X., (2016). Front-rear polarization by mechanical cues: From single cells to tissues Trends in Cell Biology 26, (6), 420-433

Directed cell migration is a complex process that involves front-rear polarization, characterized by cell adhesion and cytoskeleton-based protrusion, retraction, and contraction of either a single cell or a cell collective. Single cell polarization depends on a variety of mechanochemical signals including external adhesive cues, substrate stiffness, and confinement. In cell ensembles, coordinated polarization of migrating tissues results not only from the application of traction forces on the extracellular matrix but also from the transmission of mechanical stress through intercellular junctions. We focus here on the impact of mechanical cues on the establishment and maintenance of front-rear polarization from single cell to collective cell behaviors through local or large-scale mechanisms.

JTD Keywords: Cell forces, Cell polarity, Collective cell migration, Mechanobiology, Micropatterning, Substrate stiffness


Crosas-Molist, E., Meirelles, T., López-Luque, J., Serra-Peinado, C., Selva, J., Caja, L., Gorbenko Del Blanco, D., Uriarte, J. J., Bertran, E., Mendizábal, Y., Hernández, V., García-Calero, C., Busnadiego, O., Condom, E., Toral, D., Castellà, M., Forteza, A., Navajas, D., Sarri, E., Rodríguez-Pascual, F., Dietz, H. C., Fabregat, I., Egea, G., (2015). Vascular smooth muscle cell phenotypic changes in patients with marfan syndrome Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology , 35, (4), 960-972

Objective - Marfan's syndrome is characterized by the formation of ascending aortic aneurysms resulting from altered assembly of extracellular matrix microfibrils and chronic tissue growth factor (TGF)-β signaling. TGF-β is a potent regulator of the vascular smooth muscle cell (VSMC) phenotype. We hypothesized that as a result of the chronic TGF-β signaling, VSMC would alter their basal differentiation phenotype, which could facilitate the formation of aneurysms. This study explores whether Marfan's syndrome entails phenotypic alterations of VSMC and possible mechanisms at the subcellular level. Approach and Results - Immunohistochemical and Western blotting analyses of dilated aortas from Marfan patients showed overexpression of contractile protein markers (α-smooth muscle actin, smoothelin, smooth muscle protein 22 alpha, and calponin-1) and collagen I in comparison with healthy aortas. VSMC explanted from Marfan aortic aneurysms showed increased in vitro expression of these phenotypic markers and also of myocardin, a transcription factor essential for VSMC-specific differentiation. These alterations were generally reduced after pharmacological inhibition of the TGF-β pathway. Marfan VSMC in culture showed more robust actin stress fibers and enhanced RhoA-GTP levels, which was accompanied by increased focal adhesion components and higher nuclear localization of myosin-related transcription factor A. Marfan VSMC and extracellular matrix measured by atomic force microscopy were both stiffer than their respective controls. Conclusions - In Marfan VSMC, both in tissue and in culture, there are variable TGF-β-dependent phenotypic changes affecting contractile proteins and collagen I, leading to greater cellular and extracellular matrix stiffness. Altogether, these alterations may contribute to the known aortic rigidity that precedes or accompanies Marfan's syndrome aneurysm formation.

JTD Keywords: Actin, Aortic aneurysms, Aortic stiffness, Extracellular matrix, Focal adhesion, Myocardin, RhoA, TGF-β


Krishnan, Ramaswamy, Klumpers, Darinka D., Park, Chan Y., Rajendran, Kavitha, Trepat, Xavier, van Bezu, Jan, van Hinsbergh, Victor W. M., Carman, Christopher V., Brain, Joseph D., Fredberg, Jeffrey J., Butler, James P., van Nieuw Amerongen, Geerten P., (2011). Substrate stiffening promotes endothelial monolayer disruption through enhanced physical forces American Journal of Physiology - Cell Physiology , 300, (1), C146-C154

A hallmark of many, sometimes life-threatening, inflammatory diseases and disorders is vascular leakage. The extent and severity of vascular leakage is broadly mediated by the integrity of the endothelial cell (EC) monolayer, which is in turn governed by three major interactions: cell-cell and cell-substrate contacts, soluble mediators, and biomechanical forces. A potentially critical but essentially uninvestigated component mediating these interactions is the stiffness of the substrate to which the endothelial monolayer is adherent. Accordingly, we investigated the extent to which substrate stiffening influences endothelial monolayer disruption and the role of cell-cell and cell-substrate contacts, soluble mediators, and physical forces in that process. Traction force microscopy showed that forces between cell and cell and between cell and substrate were greater on stiffer substrates. On stiffer substrates, these forces were substantially enhanced by a hyperpermeability stimulus (thrombin, 1 U/ml), and gaps formed between cells. On softer substrates, by contrast, these forces were increased far less by thrombin, and gaps did not form between cells. This stiffness-dependent force enhancement was associated with increased Rho kinase activity, whereas inhibition of Rho kinase attenuated baseline forces and lessened thrombin-induced inter-EC gap formation. Our findings demonstrate a central role of physical forces in EC gap formation and highlight a novel physiological mechanism. Integrity of the endothelial monolayer is governed by its physical microenvironment, which in normal circumstances is compliant but during pathology becomes stiffer.

JTD Keywords: Contraction, Human umbilical vein endothelial cells, Permeability, Traction force, Cell-cell contact, Cell-substrate contact, Substrate stiffness, Rho kinase, Vascular endothelial cadherin, Thrombin


Byrne, Damien P., Lacroix, Damien, Prendergast, Patrick J., (2011). Simulation of fracture healing in the tibia: Mechanoregulation of cell activity using a lattice modeling approach Journal of Orthopaedic Research , 29, (10), 1496-1503

In this study, a three-dimensional (3D) computational simulation of bone regeneration was performed in a human tibia under realistic muscle loading. The simulation was achieved using a discrete lattice modeling approach combined with a mechanoregulation algorithm to describe the cellular processes involved in the healing process namely proliferation, migration, apoptosis, and differentiation of cells. The main phases of fracture healing were predicted by the simulation, including the bone resorption phase, and there was a qualitative agreement between the temporal changes in interfragmentary strain and bending stiffness by comparison to experimental data and clinical results. Bone healing was simulated beyond the reparative phase by modeling the transition of woven bone into lamellar bone. Because the simulation has been shown to work with realistic anatomical 3D geometry and muscle loading, it demonstrates the potential of simulation tools for patient-specific pre-operative treatment planning.

JTD Keywords: Tissue differentiation, Computational analysis, Mechanical conditions, Bone regeneration, Weight-bearing, Proliferation, Osteoblast, Stiffness, Ingrowth, Scaffold


Angelini, T. E., Hannezo, E., Trepat, X., Fredberg, J. J., Weitz, D. A., (2010). Cell migration driven by cooperative substrate deformation patterns Physical Review Letters 104, (16), 168104

Most eukaryotic cells sense and respond to the mechanical properties of their surroundings. This can strongly influence their collective behavior in embryonic development, tissue function, and wound healing. We use a deformable substrate to measure collective behavior in cell motion due to substrate mediated cell-cell interactions. We quantify spatial and temporal correlations in migration velocity and substrate deformation, and show that cooperative cell-driven patterns of substrate deformation mediate long-distance mechanical coupling between cells and control collective cell migration.

JTD Keywords: Movement, Morphogenesis, Stiffness, Forces, Flocks


Park, C. Y., Tambe, D., Alencar, A. M., Trepat, X., Zhou, E. H., Millet, E., Butler, J. P., Fredberg, J. J., (2010). Mapping the cytoskeletal prestress The American Journal of Physiology - Cell Physiology , 298, (5), C1245-C1252

Park CY, Tambe D, Alencar AM, Trepat X, Zhou EH, Millet E, Butler JP, Fredberg JJ. Mapping the cytoskeletal prestress. Am J Physiol Cell Physiol 298: C1245-C1252, 2010. First published February 17, 2010; doi: 10.1152/ajpcell.00417.2009.-Cell mechanical properties on a whole cell basis have been widely studied, whereas local intracellular variations have been less well characterized and are poorly understood. To fill this gap, here we provide detailed intracellular maps of regional cytoskeleton (CSK) stiffness, loss tangent, and rate of structural rearrangements, as well as their relationships to the underlying regional F-actin density and the local cytoskeletal prestress. In the human airway smooth muscle cell, we used micropatterning to minimize geometric variation. We measured the local cell stiffness and loss tangent with optical magnetic twisting cytometry and the local rate of CSK remodeling with spontaneous displacements of a CSK-bound bead. We also measured traction distributions with traction microscopy and cell geometry with atomic force microscopy. On the basis of these experimental observations, we used finite element methods to map for the first time the regional distribution of intracellular prestress. Compared with the cell center or edges, cell corners were systematically stiffer and more fluidlike and supported higher traction forces, and at the same time had slower remodeling dynamics. Local remodeling dynamics had a close inverse relationship with local cell stiffness. The principal finding, however, is that systematic regional variations of CSK stiffness correlated only poorly with regional F-actin density but strongly and linearly with the regional prestress. Taken together, these findings in the intact cell comprise the most comprehensive characterization to date of regional variations of cytoskeletal mechanical properties and their determinants.

JTD Keywords: Cell mechanics, Stiffness, Remodeling, Heterogeneity


Zhou, E. H., Trepat, X., Park, C. Y., Lenormand, G., Oliver, M. N., Mijailovich, S. M., Hardin, C., Weitz, D. A., Butler, J. P., Fredberg, J. J., (2009). Universal behavior of the osmotically compressed cell and its analogy to the colloidal glass transition Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 106, (26), 10632-10637

Mechanical robustness of the cell under different modes of stress and deformation is essential to its survival and function. Under tension, mechanical rigidity is provided by the cytoskeletal network; with increasing stress, this network stiffens, providing increased resistance to deformation. However, a cell must also resist compression, which will inevitably occur whenever cell volume is decreased during such biologically important processes as anhydrobiosis and apoptosis. Under compression, individual filaments can buckle, thereby reducing the stiffness and weakening the cytoskeletal network. However, the intracellular space is crowded with macromolecules and organelles that can resist compression. A simple picture describing their behavior is that of colloidal particles; colloids exhibit a sharp increase in viscosity with increasing volume fraction, ultimately undergoing a glass transition and becoming a solid. We investigate the consequences of these 2 competing effects and show that as a cell is compressed by hyperosmotic stress it becomes progressively more rigid. Although this stiffening behavior depends somewhat on cell type, starting conditions, molecular motors, and cytoskeletal contributions, its dependence on solid volume fraction is exponential in every instance. This universal behavior suggests that compression-induced weakening of the network is overwhelmed by crowding-induced stiffening of the cytoplasm. We also show that compression dramatically slows intracellular relaxation processes. The increase in stiffness, combined with the slowing of relaxation processes, is reminiscent of a glass transition of colloidal suspensions, but only when comprised of deformable particles. Our work provides a means to probe the physical nature of the cytoplasm under compression, and leads to results that are universal across cell type.

JTD Keywords: Compression, Cytoplasm, Cytoskeleton, Mechanotransduction, Stiffness


Rico, Félix, Roca-Cusachs, Pere, Sunyer, Raimon, Farré, Ramon, Navajas, Daniel, (2007). Cell dynamic adhesion and elastic properties probed with cylindrical atomic force microscopy cantilever tips Journal of Molecular Recognition John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. 20, (6), 459-466

Cell adhesion is required for essential biological functions such as migration, tissue formation and wound healing, and it is mediated by individual molecules that bind specifically to ligands on other cells or on the extracellular matrix. Atomic force microscopy (AFM) has been successfully used to measure cell adhesion at both single molecule and whole cell levels. However, the measurement of inherent cell adhesion properties requires a constant cell-probe contact area during indentation, a requirement which is not fulfilled in common pyramidal or spherical AFM tips. We developed a procedure using focused ion beam (FIB) technology by which we modified silicon pyramidal AFM cantilever tips to obtain flat-ended cylindrical tips with a constant and known area of contact. The tips were validated on elastic gels and living cells. Cylindrical tips showed a fairly linear force-indentation behaviour on both gels and cells for indentations > 200nm. Cylindrical tips coated with ligands were used to quantify inherent dynamic cell adhesion and elastic properties. Force, work of adhesion and elasticity showed a marked dynamic response. In contrast, the deformation applied to the cells before rupture was fairly constant within the probed dynamic range. Taken together, these results suggest that the dynamic adhesion strength is counterbalanced by the dynamic elastic response to keep a constant cell deformation regardless of the applied pulling rate.

JTD Keywords: AFM, Cell adhesion, Cell mechanics, Cell stiffness