A vacuum-actuated microtissue stretcher for long-term exposure to oscillatory strain within a 3D matrix

Matthew Walker, Michel Godin, Andrew E. Pelling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Web of Science)


Although our understanding of cellular behavior in response to extracellular biological and mechanical stimuli has greatly advanced using conventional 2D cell culture methods, these techniques lack physiological relevance. To a cell, the extracellular environment of a 2D plastic petri dish is artificially flat, extremely rigid, static and void of matrix protein. In contrast, we developed the microtissue vacuum-actuated stretcher (MVAS) to probe cellular behavior within a 3D multicellular environment composed of innate matrix protein, and in response to continuous uniaxial stretch. An array format, compatibility with live imaging and high-throughput fabrication techniques make the MVAS highly suited for biomedical research and pharmaceutical discovery. We validated our approach by characterizing the bulk microtissue strain, the microtissue strain field and single cell strain, and by assessing F-actin expression in response to chronic cyclic strain of 10%. The MVAS was shown to be capable of delivering reproducible dynamic bulk strain amplitudes up to 13%. The strain at the single cell level was found to be 10.4% less than the microtissue axial strain due to cellular rotation. Chronic cyclic strain produced a 35% increase in F-actin expression consistent with cytoskeletal reinforcement previously observed in 2D cell culture. The MVAS may further our understanding of the reciprocity shared between cells and their environment, which is critical to meaningful biomedical research and successful therapeutic approaches.

Original languageEnglish
Article number43
JournalBiomedical Microdevices
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2018


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