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Soft Matter


Mechanical interactions between individual cells and their substrate have been studied extensively over the past decade; however, understanding how these interactions change as cells interact with neighboring cells in the development of a cell sheet, or early stage tissue, is less developed. We use a recently developed experimental technique for quantifying the mechanics of confluent cell sheets. Living cells are cultured on a thin film of polystyrene [PS], which is attached to a patterned substrate of crosslinked poly(dimethyl siloxane) [PDMS] microwells. As cells attach to the substrate and begin to form a sheet, they apply sufficient contractile force to buckle the PS film over individual microwells to form a microlens array. The curvature for each microlens is measured by confocal microscopy and can be related to the strain and stress applied by the cell sheet using simple mechanical analysis for the buckling of thin films. We demonstrate that this technique can provide insight into the important materials properties and length scales that govern cell sheet responses, especially the role of stiffness of the substrate. We show that intercellular forces can lead to significantly different behaviors than the ones observed for individual cells, where focal adhesion is the relevant parameter.








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