Complex dependence of substrate stiffness and serum concentration on cell-force generation

D. Karamichos, R. A. Brown, V. Mudera

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35 Scopus citations


Collagen is a widely used biomaterial in tissue engineering. Mechanical stimulation of cell-seeded collagen constructs and its effects on cell orientation, intracellular signaling, and molecular responses have been reported. Our aim was to study the transfer of applied mechanical load to resident cells in 3D collagen constructs. Stainless steel markers were embedded in constructs as reporters of micromovement and uniaxial (0-15%) strain was applied. Cell-seeded collagen constructs were also subjected to (0-15%) uniaxial strain and material responses recorded. The viscoelastic properties of collagen resulted in comparatively small movement of the marker bars relative to gel deformation. Cell seeding density of 1 million/mL had no significant effect on the viscoelastic properties of collagen for the range of strain tested. Our findings indicate that viscoelastic properties of collagen result in minimal force transfer of applied loads as recorded by movement of stainless steel markers. At higher strain rates as collagen got stiffer the movement decreased. These findings indicate that as cell-seeded collagen constructs mature in a bioreactor and become stiffer due to ECM production/deposition, mechanical stimulation will have to be tailored over time to account for increased stiffness of constructs in vitro to elicit predictable and consistent cellular responses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)407-415
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Biomedical Materials Research - Part A
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2006


  • Collagen gel
  • Mechanical loads
  • Stiffness
  • Tissue engineering
  • Viscoelastic


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