Mechanobiology has nowadays acquired the status of a topic of fundamental importance in a degree in Biological Sciences. It is inherently a multidisciplinary topic where biology, physics and engineering competences are required. A course in mechanobiology should include lab experiences where students can appreciate how mechanical stimuli from outside affect living cell behaviour. Here we describe all the steps to build a cell stretcher inside an on-stage cell incubator. This device allows exposing living cells to a periodic mechanical stimulus similar to what happens in physiological conditions such as, for example, in the vascular system or in the lungs. The reaction of the cells to the periodic mechanical stretching represents a prototype of a mechanobiological signal integrated by living cells. We also provide the theoretical and experimental aspects related to the calibration of the stretcher apparatus at a level accessible to researchers not used to dealing with topics like continuum mechanics and analysis of deformations. We tested our device by stretching cells of two different lines, U87-MG and Balb-3T3 cells, and we analysed and discussed the effect of the periodic stimulus on both cell reorientation and migration. We also discuss the basic aspects related to the quantitative analysis of the reorientation process and of cell migration. We think that the device we propose can be easily reproduced at low-cost within a project-oriented course in the fields of biology, biotechnology and medical engineering.
A Fully Integrated Arduino-Based System for the Application of Stretching Stimuli to Living Cells and Their Time-Lapse Observation: A Do-It-Yourself Biology Approach / Ragazzini, G.; Guerzoni, J.; Mescola, A.; Di Rosa, D.; Corsi, L.; Alessandrini, A.. - In: ANNALS OF BIOMEDICAL ENGINEERING. - ISSN 1573-9686. - (2021), pp. 1-17. [10.1007/s10439-021-02758-3]