The class starts with introductory lectures on the place of cell mechanics in the broader areas of cell biology, physiology, and biophysics, where the general topics of cell structure, motility, force generation, and interaction with the extracellular matrix are considered. The importance of the cell mechanical properties as indicators of the cell performance under normal and pathological conditions is emphasized. Major experimental techniques, such as micropipette aspiration, atomic force microscopy, and magnetic cytometry, to probe cell mechanical properties are presented. Linear elastic and viscoelastic models are introduced and applied to the interpretation of the mechanical experiments with endothelial cells and fibroblasts. Then the class discusses cell adhesion, spreading, and motility focusing on the experiments and models to estimate traction forces (stresses) produced by the cell. Finally, the effects of various mechanical factors (applied strains or forces, stiffness and viscoelastic properties, surface topography) on stem cell lineage commitment are discussed. Students also read and make presentations on original journal papers covering additional topics, which exposes them to the professional literature and hones their communication skills.
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