Endothelial cell (EC) morphology and functions can be highly impacted by the mechanical stresses that the cells experience in vivo. In most areas in the vasculature, ECs are continuously exposed to unsteady blood flow-induced shear stress and vasodilation-contraction-induced tensile stress/strain simultaneously. Investigations on how ECs respond to combined shear stress and tensile strain will help us to better understand how an altered mechanical environment affects EC mechanotransduction, dysfunction, and associated cardiovascular disease development. In the present study, a programmable shearing and stretching device that can apply dynamic fluid shear stress and cyclic tensile strain simultaneously to cultured ECs was developed. Flow and stress/strain conditions in the device were simulated using a fluid structure interaction (FSI) model. To characterize the performance of this device and the effect of combined shear stress–tensile strain on EC morphology, human coronary artery ECs (HCAECs) were exposed to concurrent shear stress and cyclic tensile strain in the device. Changes in EC morphology were evaluated through cell elongation, cell alignment, and cell junctional actin accumulation. Results obtained from the numerical simulation indicated that in the “in-plane” area of the device, both fluid shear stress and biaxial tensile strain were uniform. Results obtained from the in vitro experiments demonstrated that shear stress, alone or combined with cyclic tensile strain, induced significant cell elongation. While biaxial tensile strain alone did not induce any appreciable change in EC elongation. Fluid shear stress and cyclic tensile strain had different effects on EC actin filament alignment and accumulation. By combining various fluid shear stress and cyclic tensile strain conditions, this device can provide a physiologically relevant mechanical environment to study EC responses to physiological and pathological mechanical stimulation.

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