Powerful new technique reveals the mechanical environment of cells in their natural habitat, the living embryoby The Daily Eye Team December 6 2016, 4:32 pm Estimated Reading Time: 1 min, 13 secs
Whether building organs or maintaining healthy adult tissues, cells use biochemical and mechanical cues from their environment to make important decisions, such as becoming a neuron, a skin cell or a heart cell. Scientists at UC Santa Barbara have developed a powerful new technique that reveals for the first time the mechanical environment that cells perceive in living tissues—their natural, unaltered three-dimensional habitat.
"Knowing how cells respond to mechanical cues in the living embryo and how they physically sculpt tissues and organs in the 3D space will transform the way we think about developmental processes," said Otger Campàs, a professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at UCSB and senior author on the paper that reports this novel technique in Nature Methods. "Importantly, this knowledge will help us better understand healthy tissue homeostasis and the wide range of diseases that involve abnormal tissue mechanics, especially cancer."
The growth and development of a living organism is a choreography of cellular movements and behaviors that follow internal genetic guidelines and specific biochemical and mechanical signals. All these events conspire over time to create a variety of complex forms and textures that make our tissues and organs functional. Scientists have focused for decades on the role of biochemical cues in embryonic development, Campàs said, because no techniques existed to measure the mechanical cues that cells are exposed to during the formation of tissues and organs.