Saturday, 01 April, 2006
A bottom-up approach to cell mechanics
A. R. Bausch and K. Kroy -
Nature Physics 2, 231 - 238 (2006)
The mechanical stability and integrity of biological cells is provided by the cytoskeleton, a semidilute meshwork of biopolymers. Recent research has underscored its role as a dynamic, multifunctional muscle, whose passive and active mechanical performance is highly heterogeneous in space and time and intimately linked to many biological functions, such that it may serve as a sensitive indicator for the health or developmental state of the cell. In vitro reconstitution of ‘functional modules’ of the cytoskeleton is now seen as a way of balancing the mutually conflicting demands for simplicity, which is required for systematic and quantitative studies, and for a sufficient degree of complexity that allows a faithful representation of biological functions. This bottom-up strategy, aimed at unravelling biological complexity from its physical basis, builds on the latest advances in technology, experimental design and theoretical modelling, which are reviewed in this progress report.