Abstract

The extracellular matrix (ECM) guides tissue form and function by communicating to cells both biochemical and mechanical information about the local micro-environment. It is well established that mechanical loads to tissues influence fundamental cellular processes including proliferation, migration, formation of adhesion complexes, and gene expression [1]. However, the pathway that transduces these forces from the tissue (macro) to the cellular (micro) level remains to be elucidated. In order to understand how cells interact mechanically with their surroundings, the three-dimensional (3D) micromechanical properties of the ECM must be understood. Advancements in the knowledge of ECM micro-behavior will be key to the development of future tissue engineering strategies.

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