How deeply cells feel?

Amnon Buxboim, Joe Swift, Irena L. Ivanovska, Jerome Irianto, Dennis E. Discher

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Cellular organization within a multicellular organism requires that a cell assess its relative location, taking in multiple cues from its microenvironment. Given that the extracellular matrix (ECM) consists of the most abundant proteins in animals and contributes both structure and elasticity to tissues, ECM probably provides key physical cues to cells. In vivo, in the vicinity of many tissue cell types, fibrous characteristics of the ECM are less discernible than the measurably distinct elasticity that characterizes different tissue microenvironments. As a cell engages matrix and actively probes, it senses the local elastic resistance of the ECM and nearby cells via their deformation, and - similar to the proverbial princess who feels a pea placed many mattresses below - the cell seems to possess feedback and recognition mechanisms that establish how far it can feel. Here, by utilizing polyacrylamide hydrogels with various thickness, we showed that cells increasingly respond to the rigidity of an underlying 'hidden' surface starting at about 10-20 μm gel thickness with a characteristic tactile length of less than about 5 μm.

Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationProceedings - 2014 40th Annual Northeast Bioengineering Conference, NEBEC 2014
PublisherInstitute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc.
ISBN (Electronic)9781479937288
StatePublished - 2 Dec 2014
Externally publishedYes
Event2014 40th Annual Northeast Bioengineering Conference, NEBEC 2014 - Boston, United States
Duration: 25 Apr 201427 Apr 2014

Publication series

NameProceedings of the IEEE Annual Northeast Bioengineering Conference, NEBEC
ISSN (Print)1071-121X
ISSN (Electronic)2160-7001


Conference2014 40th Annual Northeast Bioengineering Conference, NEBEC 2014
Country/TerritoryUnited States

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 IEEE.


  • Cell mechanotransduction
  • ECM
  • Polyacrylamide gel


Dive into the research topics of 'How deeply cells feel?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this