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Mechanochemical Transduction

:“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

This final quote from doctors Chen and Ingber drives home the point that research in the field of tensegrity and mechanical signaling is showing that mechanical manipulation of the tissues is having an effect not only on the gross anatomical structures, but also deep into the cellular and genetic signals:

“The demonstration of discrete mechanical linkages between cells and their ECM via integrins also suggests how mechanical signals resulting from ECM deformation may be transferred across cell surface integrin receptors to distinct structures in the cell and nucleus, including ion channels, nuclear pores, nucleoli, chromosomes, and perhaps even individual genes, independently of ongoing chemical signaling mechanisms. In fact, recent studies have demonstrated that signal transduction pathways can be activated within milliseconds after cell surface integrins and associated cytoskeletal connections are mechanically stressed, but not when unanchored cell surface transmembrane receptors are similarly perturbed on the same cells. This type of physical coupling between intracellular structures, cell surface receptors, and the ECM could serve to coordinate, complement and constrain slower diffusion-based chemical signaling pathways and thus, explain how mechanical distortion of ECM caused by gravity or other mechanical stresses can change cell shape, alter nuclear functions, and switch cells between different genetic programs.”

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