Mechanical tension as a driver of connective tissue growth in vitro

Wilson, Cameron John, Pearcy, Mark J., & Epari, Devakara R. (2014) Mechanical tension as a driver of connective tissue growth in vitro. Medical Hypotheses, 83(1), pp. 111-115.

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We propose the progressive mechanical expansion of cell-derived tissue analogues as a novel, growth-based approach to in vitro tissue engineering. The prevailing approach to producing tissue in vitro is to culture cells in an exogenous “scaffold” that provides a basic structure and mechanical support. This necessarily pre-defines the final size of the implantable material, and specific signals must be provided to stimulate appropriate cell growth, differentiation and matrix formation. In contrast, surgical skin expansion, driven by increments of stretch, produces increasing quantities of tissue without trauma or inflammation. This suggests that connective tissue cells have the innate ability to produce growth in response to elevated tension. We posit that this capacity is maintained in vitro, and that order-of-magnitude growth may be similarly attained in self-assembling cultures of cells and their own extracellular matrix.

The hypothesis that growth of connective tissue analogues can be induced by mechanical expansion in vitro may be divided into three components:

(1) tension stimulates cell proliferation and extracellular matrix synthesis; (2) the corresponding volume increase will relax the tension imparted by a fixed displacement; (3) the repeated application of static stretch will produce sustained growth and a tissue structure adapted to the tensile loading.

Connective tissues exist in a state of residual tension, which is actively maintained by resident cells such as fibroblasts. Studies in vitro and in vivo have demonstrated that cellular survival, reproduction, and matrix synthesis and degradation are regulated by the mechanical environment. Order-of-magnitude increases in both bone and skin volume have been achieved clinically through staged expansion protocols, demonstrating that tension-driven growth can be sustained over prolonged periods.

Furthermore, cell-derived tissue analogues have demonstrated mechanically advantageous structural adaptation in response to applied loading. Together, these data suggest that a program of incremental stretch constitutes an appealing way to replicate tissue growth in cell culture, by harnessing the constituent cells’ innate mechanical responsiveness.

In addition to offering a platform to study the growth and structural adaptation of connective tissues, tension-driven growth presents a novel approach to in vitro tissue engineering. Because the supporting structure is secreted and organised by the cells themselves, growth is not restricted by a “scaffold” of fixed size. This also minimises potential adverse reactions to exogenous materials upon implantation. Most importantly, we posit that the growth induced by progressive stretch will allow substantial volumes of connective tissue to be produced from relatively small initial cell numbers.

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ID Code: 69801
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Additional URLs:
Keywords: Mechanobiology, Tissue Culture, Distraction, 3D Cell Culture, Stretch
DOI: 10.1016/j.mehy.2014.03.031
ISSN: 0306-9877
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES (060000) > BIOCHEMISTRY AND CELL BIOLOGY (060100) > Cell Development Proliferation and Death (060103)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES (060000) > BIOCHEMISTRY AND CELL BIOLOGY (060100) > Cellular Interactions (incl. Adhesion Matrix Cell Wall) (060106)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES (060000) > PHYSIOLOGY (060600) > Animal Physiology - Cell (060602)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > ENGINEERING (090000) > BIOMEDICAL ENGINEERING (090300) > Biomechanical Engineering (090302)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES (110000) > MEDICAL PHYSIOLOGY (111600) > Cell Physiology (111601)
Divisions: Current > Schools > School of Chemistry, Physics & Mechanical Engineering
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Science & Engineering Faculty
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Copyright Statement: This is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Medical Hypotheses. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Medical Hypotheses, [Volume 83, Issue 1, (2014)] DOI: 10.1016/j.mehy.2014.03.031
Deposited On: 03 Apr 2014 22:50
Last Modified: 01 Oct 2015 13:25

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