Tensegrity and Mechanotransduction, 2008

Topics: fascia, tensegrity, mechanotransduction, cytoskeleton, integrins, cell tension, physical therapy

Authors: D E Ingber


Anyone who is skilled in the art of physical therapy knows that the mechanical properties, behavior and movement of our bodies are as important for human health as chemicals and genes. However, only recently have scientists and physicians begun to appreciate the key role that mechanical forces play in biological control at the molecular and cellular levels. This article provides a brief overview of a lecture presented at the 1st International Fascia Research Congress that convened at Harvard Medical School in Boston, MA on October 4, 2007. (see figure 1) In this lecture, I described what we have learned over the past thirty years as a result of our research focused on the molecular mechanisms by which cells sense mechanical forces and convert them into changes in intracellular biochemistry and gene expression – a process called “mechanotransduction”. This work has revealed that molecules, cells, tissues, organs, and our entire bodies use “tensegrity” architecture to mechanically stabilize their shape, and to seamlessly integrate structure and function at all size scales. Through use of this tension-dependent building system, mechanical forces applied at the macroscale produce changes in biochemistry and gene expression within individual living cells. This structure-based system provides a mechanistic basis to explain how application of physical therapies might influence cell and tissue physiology.

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