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Embryonic stem cell softness dictates stress-induced spreading and differentiation

Ning Wang's picture

We recently find that embryonic stem cells are very sensitive to a local cyclic stress applied to the focal adhesion.  They spread and differentiate (Oct3/4 downregulation) in response to this local force. In contrast, the stiff differentiated cells (~10-fold stiffer) do not spread at all in response to the same amplitude of stress.  The underlying mechanism is that these cells are very soft; because of this softness, the intracellular strain sensors are likely to be activated.  In other words, there appears to be a strain threshold that is critical for triggering cellular biological response.  This work highlights the importance of intrinsic intracellular cytoskeletal rheology in mechanotransduction and in biological responses of the cells.  Much more work is needed in elucidating molecular mechanisms of stress-induced differentiation of embryonic stem cells.  For detailed information, please see F. Chowdhury et al, Nature Materials, Publication Online 18 October, 2009. DOI: 10.1038/NMAT2563.

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