Emerging Concepts and Tools in Cell Mechanomemory.
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Studying a cell's ability to sense and respond to mechanical cues has emerged as a field unto itself over the last several decades, and this research area is now populated by engineers and biologists alike. As just one example of this cell mechanosensing, fibroblasts on soft substrates have slower growth rates, smaller spread areas, lower traction forces, and slower migration speeds compared to cells on stiff substrates. This phenomenon is not unique to fibroblasts, as these behaviors, and others, on soft substrates has been shown across a variety of cell types, and reproduced in many different labs. Thus far, the field has focused on discerning the mechanisms of cell mechanosensing through ion channels, focal adhesions and integrin-binding sites to the ECM, and the cell cytoskeleton. A relatively new concept in the field is that of mechanical memory, which refers to persistent effects of mechanical stimuli long after they have been removed from said stimulus. Here, we review this literature, provide an overview of emerging substrate fabrication approaches likely to be helpful for the field, and suggest the adaption of genetic tools for studying mechanical memory.