Although many of the molecular mechanisms that regulate tissue assembly in the embryo have been delineated, the physical forces that couple these mechanisms to actual changes in tissue form remain unclear. Qualitative studies suggest that mechanical loads play a regulatory role in development, but clear quantitative evidence has been lacking. This is partly owing to the complex nature of these problems – embryonic tissues typically undergo large deformations and exhibit evolving, highly viscoelastic material properties. Still, despite these challenges, new disruptive technologies are enabling study of the mechanics of tissue assembly in unprecedented detail. Here, we present novel experimental techniques that enable the study of each component of these physical problems: kinematics, forces, and constitutive properties. Specifically, we detail advances in light sheet microscopy, optical coherence tomography, traction force microscopy, fluorescence force spectroscopy, microrheology and micropatterning. Taken together, these technologies are helping elucidate a more quantitative understanding of the mechanics of tissue assembly.
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