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What Is Cell Biomechanics?

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  • Written By: Valerie Clark
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 20 November 2016
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Cell biomechanics refers to the mechanical function of cells in terms of biology. Biomechanics is an interdisciplinary area of ongoing research that focuses on the mechanistic behaviors of cells and the biological influences associated with those behaviors. The study of cell biomechanics draws on the disciplines of mechanical engineering, biochemistry, and anatomy and physiology.

Fundamental research in cell biomechanics involves the structure, organization and other primarily physical properties of cell function. The purpose of biomechanics is to further the understanding of normal and disease physiology on a cellular level. Scientists who specialize in cell biomechanics have developed tools using microfabrication and innovative nanoscience and bioengineering processes. These tools allow scientists to collect and examine cell and protein samples on a molecular level. This approach focuses on the small parts of a larger, functioning system, which is the essence of cell biomechanics.

Cellular biomechanics also has been referred to as biomechanics or mechanobiology; all are terms that reflect the interdisciplinary nature of this specialization. By studying the mechanical properties of cells involved with diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer, researchers may be able to find treatments and cures for otherwise fatal diseases. These properties include biophysical forces, adhesive properties and spatial organization. For example, the fluid components of a cell are associated with membrane stress, permeability and gene expression. Scientists have been using biomechanics to identify a way to study cellular behavior on a larger scale, in terms of tissues and organs affected by disease.

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Cells are the building blocks of life, and a chain of biochemical reactions is vital for normal, biological processes to function properly. These reactions often occur within the cell wall under highly specific conditions. When the cellular environment or cell biomechanics become altered in some way, the result on healthy cells can cause hypertension, strokes and many other medical problems. All normal, body functions — such as healing, swelling and hormone release — involve the role of cells. The need to understand how these things happen, not just why or when they happen, is what cell biomechanics aims to achieve.

Biomechanical measurements of cells have been obtained through a wide variety of methodologies, ranging from fluid dynamics to signal transduction. Biomechanical analysis alone has seen a wide range of advancements and uses, including human kinetics and athletic training. The basic approach remains the same; biomechanical analysis captures the physical measurements associated with movement and associates or attributes the data to biological processes.

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