Mechanotransduction is the process in which cells actively detect and respond to physical cues and mechanical signals within their surrounding microenvironment. This leads to the activation of mechanosensitive signaling pathways within the cell which result in changes to the mechanical properties of the cell such as elasticity, adhesiveness, and viscosity.
The ability of cells to sustain, generate, and sense mechanical forces plays an integral role in cell morphology, behavior and function. Genetic mutations that disrupt these functions can lead to abnormal cell shape and compromised function and are linked to a variety of diseases. Alterations in the stiffness of cancer cells, the surrounding extracellular matrix, and the physical and mechanical properties of the tumor microenvironment have all been observed during progression of the disease.
Advanced cell mechanical characterization techniques that quantify the forces involved in cellular response to mechanical stimuli, can therefore lead to an enhanced understanding of cell morphology and mechanics, and their role in development, physiology, and disease.