In this work, we demonstrate the unique effect of controlled anisotropic strain on fibroblast behavior in 3D engineered tissue environments. Anisotropy of biaxial strain resulted in increased cellular orientation and collagen fiber alignment. Transforming growth factor beta-1 (TGFβ1) gene expression and pSmad2 nuclear translocation increased with biaxial directionality. Myofibroblastic alpha-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA) decreased with applied strain similar to mechanically unloaded hydrogels. Collectively, these results demonstrate a novel mechanobiological mechanism by which fibroblasts develop rapid anisotropic matrix striation while maintaining phenotype quiescence.

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