Biomechanics of stem cells

A. A. Spector, D. Yuan, S. Somers, W. L. Grayson

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Stem cells play a key role in the healthy development and maintenance of organisms. They are also critically important in medical treatments of various diseases. It has been recently demonstrated that the mechanical factors such as forces, adhesion, stiffness, relaxation, etc. have significant effects on stem cell functions. Under physiological conditions, cells (stem cells) in muscles, heart, and blood vessels are under the action of externally applied strains. We consider the stem cell microenvironment and performance associated with their conversion (differentiation) into skeletal muscle cells. Two problems are studied by using mathematical models whose parameters are then optimized by fitting experiments. First, we present our analysis of the process of stem cell differentiation under the application of cyclic unidirectional strain. This process is interpreted as a transition through several (six) stages where each of them is defined in terms of expression of a set of factors typical to skeletal muscle cells. The stem cell evolution toward muscle cells is described by a system of nonlinear ODEs. The parameters of the model are determined by fitting the experimental data on the time course of expression of the factors under consideration. Second, we analyse the mechanical (relaxation) properties of a scaffold that serves as the microenvironment for stem cells differentiation into skeletal muscle cells. This scaffold (surrounded by a liquid solution) is composed of unidirectional fibers with pores between them. The relaxation properties of the scaffold are studied in an experiment where a long cylindrical specimen is loaded by the application of ramp displacement until the strain reaches a prescribed value. The magnitude of the corresponding load is recorded. The specimen is considered as transversely isotropic poroelastic cylinder whose force relaxation is associated with liquid diffusion through the pores. An analytical solution for the total force applied to the cylinder in terms of the mechanical properties of the scaffold (longitudinal and lateral Young's moduli, two Poisson's ratios, and typical time of liquid diffusion) is used. The number of constant is then reduced to three by estimating the longitudinal Young's modulus and one of Poisson's ratios from an earlier experiment. Finally, three remaining parameters are estimated by fitting the relaxation curve corresponding to strain rate of loading of 0.01 s-1. The developed mathematical solution is then tested by comparing the theoretical and experimental results for another strain rate of 0.0025 s-1. The scaffold relaxation properties can be important for differentiation of stem cells inside the pores.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number012074
JournalJournal of Physics: Conference Series
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 13 2018
Event5th International Conference on Topical Problems of Continuum Mechanics, TPCM 2017 - Tsakhkadzor, Armenia
Duration: Oct 2 2017Oct 7 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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