Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Active cell mechanics: Measurement and theory

Wylie W. Ahmed, Étienne Fodor, Timo Betz

Living cells are active mechanical systems that are able to generate forces. Their structure and shape are primarily determined by biopolymer filaments and molecular motors that form the cytoskeleton. Active force generation requires constant consumption of energy to maintain the nonequilibrium activity to drive organization and transport processes necessary for their function. To understand this activity it is necessary to develop new approaches to probe the underlying physical processes. Active cell mechanics incorporates active molecular-scale force generation into the traditional framework of mechanics of materials. This review highlights recent experimental and theoretical developments towards understanding active cell mechanics. We focus primarily on intracellular mechanical measurements and theoretical advances utilizing the Langevin framework. These developing approaches allow a quantitative understanding of nonequilibrium mechanical activity in living cells. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Mechanobiology.

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