The mechanical environment surrounding cells has a critical impact on their behavior in 3D environments which more closely mimic in vivo conditions, yet methods for studying cellular response to stiffness changes in 3D are lacking. The goal of this project was to develop a system to mechanically modulate the boundary stiffness of 3D biopolymer gels populated with valvular interstitial cells. The stiffness of PDMS posts topped with stainless steel balls were actuated in real-time using magnets held above the posts at various distances. Cells cultured on these posts when held at a higher stiffness showed greater tensile forces than compliant posts. This system can contribute to research surrounding mechanobiology and cellular responses to abrupt changes in the mechanical environment.
Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Major Qualifying Project
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