Mechanobiology is an interdisciplinary field that focuses on predicting and understanding cellular responses to mechanical loads. The extracellular matrix (ECM) represents a macromolecular framework that naturally imparts structural support and spatial organization for resident cells. The ECM also participates in the communication and transfer of mechanical loads to cells, in part, via integrin attachment to the cytoskeleton (CSK). Recently, using a tissue model in which cells are embedded in a 3D collagen ECM, we have shown that fundamental cell behaviors, including morphology, proliferation, contractility, and ECM remodeling properties, can be modulated by varying 3D microstructural organization and mechanical properties of the surrounding collagen fibrils[1]. While these and other results demonstrate the critical role played by the ECM in regulating cell behavior, the mechanical-based mechanisms underlying these critical cell-ECM interactions have yet to be fully elucidated [2].

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