Tissue engineering science: Consequences of cell traction force

Robert T. Tranquillo, Mohammed A. Durrani, Alice G. Moon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


Blood and tissue cells mechanically interact with soft tissues and tissue-equivalent reconstituted collagen gels in a variety of situations relevant to biomedicine and biotechnology. A key phenomenon in these interactions is the exertion of traction force by cells on local collagen fibers which typically constitute the solid network of these tissues and gels and impart gross mechanical integrity. Two important consequences of cells exerting traction on such collagen networks are first, when the cells co-ordinate their traction, resulting in cell migration, and second, when their traction is sufficient to deform the network. Such cell-collagen network interactions are coupled in a number of ways. Network deformation, for example, can result in net alignment of collagen fibers, eliciting contact guidance, wherein cells move with bidirectional bias along an axis of fiber alignment, potentially leading to a nonuniform cell distribution. This may govern cell accumulation in wounds and be exploited to control cell infiltration of bioartificial tissues and organs. Another consequence of cell traction is the resultant stress and strain in the network which modulate cell protein and DNA synthesis and differentiation. We summarize, here, relevant mathematical theories which we have used to describe the inherent coupling of cell dynamics and tissue mechanics in cell-populated collagen gels via traction. The development of appropriate models based on these theories, in an effort to understand how events in wound healing govern the rate and extent of wound contraction, and to measure cell traction forces in vitro, are described. Relevant observations and speculation from cell biology and medicine that motivate or serve to critique the assumptions made in the theories and models are also summarized.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)225-250
Number of pages26
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 1992


  • cell traction
  • collagen gel
  • contact guidance
  • fibroblast-populated
  • mathematical model
  • wound healing


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