The goal of this work is to develop and validate an experimental system to produce non-uniform strain patterns for studying the effects of strain magnitude, anisotropy, and gradients on cells culture. A commercially available cell stretching system was modified by affixing a 5 mm diameter glass coverslip to the center of each 35mm diameter flexible-bottomed well. The two-dimensional strain field was measured using high density mapping (HDM). Dermal fibroblasts were plated in the wells and cycled at 0.2 Hz for 2 days, stained for cytoskeletal observation, and their orientation was examined with respect to the local principle strain directions. Preliminary results indicate that the addition of the rigid inclusion creates strong radial and circumferential strain gradients with simultaneous regions of strip biaxial and equibiaxial stretch in a single well. As expected from previous work, the cells oriented themselves perpendicular to the direction of principal strain. This study demonstrates the potential utility of using non-homogeneous but symmetric and reproducible strain fields for studying mechanobiology.

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