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12 March 2019

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Microlink 751 helps Researchers Investigate Cell Forces

Cells exert forces on, and mechanically sense, their surrounding matrix. This mechanical probing forms the basis of a feedback system that is critical in tissue development. Researchers from Manchester University are investigating how cells quantitatively sense the mechanical state of the surrounding matrix, which is subject to external stresses much greater than the mechanical tolerances of the unprotected cell.

The scientists incorporated cell-matrix constructs into a custom-made strain-tension measurement device (a "tension stepper"). This could measure both the matrix-derived and cell-derived tension during cycles of stretch and relaxation.

The tension-stepper device monitored the tension in the cellmatrix construct over repeated strain cycles. As part of their measuring equipment, the researchers made cantilevers 0.1 mm thick, 6 mm wide and 14 mm long. They bonded pairs of strain gauges of 350 ohm resistance to the two surfaces of each cantilever.

They then connected the strain gauges to a custom-made bridge amplifier, which incorporated a low-noise pre-amplifier. The output from this was digitized and logged by a Microlink 751 and Windmill software.

Measuring strain diagram
Block diagram of the strain measuring system

The 3D cell-matrix construct system successfully mimicked embryonic tensile tissue. The study has shown a cell-derived and well-defined re-tensioning of the relaxed tissue over repeated strain cycles. A cell-independent stress relaxation of the matrix was also observed over repeated strain cycles.

A slow, steady increase in elastic modulus was evident with prolonged strain cycling over thousands of cycles.

Further Reading
More about the Microlink 751
Synchronized mechanical oscillations at the cell-matrix interface in the formation of tensile tissue. Holmes et al. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2018 Oct 2;115(40)