Microfluidic platforms for mechanobiology
Mechanotransduction has been a topic of considerable interest since early studies demonstrated a link between mechanical force and biological response. Until recently, studies of fundamental phenomena were based either on in vivo experiments with limited control or direct access, or on large-scale in vitro studies lacking many of the potentially important physiological factors. With the advent of microfluidics, many of the previous limitations of in vitro testing were eliminated or reduced through greater control or combined functionalities. At the same time, imaging capabilities were tremendously enhanced. In this review, we discuss how microfluidics has transformed the study of mechanotransduction. This is done in the context of the various cell types that exhibit force-induced responses and the new biological insights that have been elucidated. We also discuss new microfluidic studies that could produce even more realistic models of in vivo conditions by combining multiple stimuli or creating a more realistic microenvironment.