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Tensegrity and Mechanoregulation: From Skeleton to Cytoskeleton

Christopher S. Chen and Donald E. Ingber, Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. Osteoarthritis and Cartilage (1999) 7, 81-94. doi:10.1053/joca.1998.1064

“In living organisms, use of a hierarchy of tensegrity networks both optimizes structural efficiency and provides a mechanism to mechanically couple the parts with the whole: mechanical stresses applied at the macroscale result in structural rearrangements at the cell and molecular level.”

“…mechano-responsiveness is actually a fundamental feature of all living tissues. Experiments with cultured cells confirm that mechanical stresses can directly alter many cellular processes, including signal transduction, gene expression, growth, differentiation, and survival.”

One concept discussed is tensegrity: structures containing both tension and compression elements:
“The compression resistant bones of the ‘skeleton’ are smaller subunits within a larger supporting framework, or ‘musculoskeletal system’, that is comprised of an interconnected network of bones, ligaments, tendons, muscles and cartilage….. Through use of this sort of interconnected framework of tension and compression elements, we optimize structural efficiency without sacrificing the ability of the structure to withstand a variety of structural requirements such as torsion and bending as well as tension and compression demanded of our bodies.”

Our next post will be on the concept of prestress.

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