Dissecting cellular mechanics: Implications for aging, cancer, and immunity

Michael J. Harris, Denis Wirtz, Pei Hsun Wu

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Cells are dynamic structures that must respond to complex physical and chemical signals from their surrounding environment. The cytoskeleton is a key mediator of a cell's response to the signals of both the extracellular matrix and other cells present in the local microenvironment and allows it to tune its own mechanical properties in response to these cues. A growing body of evidence suggests that altered cellular viscoelasticity is a strong indicator of disease state; including cancer, laminopathy (genetic disorders of the nuclear lamina), infection, and aging. Here, we review recent work on the characterization of cell mechanics in disease and discuss the implications of altered viscoelasticity in regulation of immune responses. Finally, we provide an overview of techniques for measuring the mechanical properties of cells deeply embedded within tissues.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)16-25
Number of pages10
JournalSeminars in Cell and Developmental Biology
StatePublished - Sep 2019


  • Cancer
  • Cell mechanics
  • Cell microenvironment
  • Cellular viscoelasticity
  • Immunology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology

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