Cells are inherently physical entities that both experience mechanical forces from their external environment and generate their own internal forces to drive cell motion. Our particular aim here is to present the reader with an introduction to the primary tools used to measure these mechanical interactions and the material properties of cells that result from them. These approaches can be applied to a diverse array of physiological processes and systems, providing important insight into the regulatory roles of mechanical interactions in cells. We cover techniques at both the molecular and cellular scales, including those that actively and passively probe the system. Along the way we cover the fundamental principles of each approach, while emphasizing the relevant length and timescales, along with the typical magnitudes of the measurements that can be made. Each section ends by highlighting uses of the various techniques in recent relevant publications, illustrating the exciting future of cell mechanics in quantitative cell biology research.
Table of Contents
Mechanical Properties of Cells
Perturbing Cellular Mechanics
About the Author(s)Margaret Gardel
, University of Chicago
Margaret L. Gardel, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor in the Department of Physics, Institute for Biophysical Dynamics and James Franck Institute at the University of Chicago. She received her Ph.D. in physics from Harvard studying the rheology of actin networks in the laboratory of Dr. David Weitz. She did her postdoctoral work with Dr. Clare M. Waterman at the Scripps Research Institute where she developed quantitative tools to measure traction stresses in adherent cells. Her lab has been funded by a National Institutes of Health Director's Pioneer Award, Fellowships from the Alfred. P. Sloan Foundation, David and Lucille Packard Foundation, American Asthma Foundation, and Burroughs Wellcome Fund, and grants from the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, and the Department of Defense Army Research Office. Her laboratory studies the biophysical regulation of cell adhesion, motion, and shape by cytoskeletal assemblies.Patrick Oakes
, University of Chicago
Patrick W. Oakes, Ph.D., is a postdoctoral scholar in the laboratory of Dr. Margaret Gardel as part of the Institute for Biophysical Dynamics, James Franck Institute and Physics Department at the University of Chicago. He received his Ph.D. in physics from Brown University, where he studied the liquid crystalline behavior of actin filaments in the laboratory of Dr. Jay X. Tang. He first became interested in cellular mechanics while studying neutrophil migration as a function of substrate stiffness in collaboration with researchers at Rhode Island Hospital as a graduate student. His current research focuses on the role of cytoskeletal organization in regulating the shape and contractile behavior of cells.