It is becoming increasingly evident, that of the signaling modalities relevant to the cell-extracellular matrix (ECM) microenvironment, the mechanical component is a very important mediator of cell behavior (reviewed in [1, 2]). Indeed, proliferation, ECM protein expression (collagen), matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) levels, migration, and stem cell differentiation, have all been shown to be affected by mechanical environmental cues [3, 4]. Although the importance of physical signaling mechanisms has been well established, the bulk of this work has yet to be translated to a more physiologic 3D microenvironment [1]. Self-assembling collagen matrices provide a biochemically, biophysically relevant 3D model of soft tissues in which biomechanical studies can be performed [5, 6]. It is with this 3D tissue model in mind, that a biaxial mechanical testing system (BMTS) was devised, built, tested, and applied to the study of cell-ECM biomechanics. The completion of this device has enabled us, to undertake a multi-scale, multidimensional study of cell-ECM mechanics. Hierarchical quantification of cell and ECM strains using digital image correlation (DIC) facilitate a more complete understanding of the mechanical response of cells to macroscopic loads and deformations. Furthermore, transfection of cells with GFP tagged actin binding protein utrophin (UTR-GFP) enables qualitative assessment of cytoskeletal deformations [7].

This content is only available via PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.