Microfluidics for the study of mechanotransduction. Academic Article uri icon


  • Mechanical forces regulate a diverse set of biological processes at cellular, tissue, and organismal length scales. Investigating the cellular and molecular mechanisms that underlie the conversion of mechanical forces to biological responses is challenged by limitations of traditional animal models and in vitro cell culture, including poor control over applied force and highly artificial cell culture environments. Recent advances in fabrication methods and material processing have enabled the development of microfluidic platforms that provide precise control over the mechanical microenvironment of cultured cells. These devices and systems have proven to be powerful for uncovering and defining mechanisms of mechanotransduction. In this review, we first give an overview of the main mechanotransduction pathways that function at sites of cell adhesion, many of which have been investigated with microfluidics. We then discuss how distinct microfluidic fabrication methods can be harnessed to gain biological insight, with description of both monolithic and replica molding approaches. Finally, we present examples of how microfluidics can be used to apply both solid forces (substrate mechanics, strain, and compression) and fluid forces (luminal, interstitial) to cells. Throughout the review, we emphasize the advantages and disadvantages of different fabrication methods and applications of force in order to provide perspective to investigators looking to apply forces to cells in their own research.

published proceedings

  • J Phys D Appl Phys

author list (cited authors)

  • Griffith, C. M., Huang, S. A., Cho, C., Khare, T. M., Rich, M., Lee, G., ... Polacheck, W. J.

citation count

  • 15

complete list of authors

  • Griffith, Christian M||Huang, Stephanie A||Cho, Crescentia||Khare, Tanmay M||Rich, Matthew||Lee, Gi-Hun||Ligler, Frances S||Diekman, Brian O||Polacheck, William J

publication date

  • May 2020