Developing new viscoelastic substrates for cell mechanics studies

Traction force microscopy is a well-established methodology to measure the local contractile forces exerted by a cell, and is accomplished by measuring the deformation of a soft elastic substrate by cell forces. From this measured deformation, the strain is calculated, and by knowing the elastic modulus of the substrate, the forces are calculated. Key changes in physiology and pathology are reflected in these cell forces, such as in metastatic progression of cancer. These substrates accurately reflect the cell forces, but poorly reflect the total work done by the cell, as rather quickly a force-equilibrium is reached; in order to do so, we must be able to include a dissipative component to the substrate, allowing cells to continuously expend energy deforming the surface. Such measurements will allow new measurements of cell contractile work, as well as characterizing time-scales of cell structural relaxation. Moreover, these materials will allow us to not only examine the interaction of cells with elastic substrates, but to measure the role of dissipation in determining cell activity, from movement to stem cell differentiation.

Faculty Supervisor:

Allen Ehrlicher





Engineering - chemical / biological



McGill University



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