Skip to Main Content
It is becoming increasingly clear that mechanical and other biophysical signals from the extracellular matrix (ECM) can powerfully influence a wide variety of fundamental cell behaviors, including proliferation, differentiation, death, and motility. This concept has significant implications both for understanding the pathophysiology of disease and the design of biointerfaces found in cellular microdevices and tissue engineering platforms. Here we briefly review recent progress from our laboratory in investigating the role of ECM-derived mechanical signals in the specific context of two systems: The growth and spread of malignant brain tumors and the design of microscale cardiac tissue engineering systems. In both cases, mechanical signals encoded in the ECM govern motility, mechanics, and/or proliferation in profound and unexpected ways and rely upon the cell's reciprocal ability to generate contractile force through myosin and its molecular regulators.