A system to impose prescribed homogenous strains on cultured cells

Christopher M. Waters, Matthew R. Glucksberg, Eugene P. Lautenschlager, Chyh Woei Lee, Reed M. Van Matre, Richard J. Warp, Ushma Savla, Kevin E. Healy, Brian Moran, David G. Castner, Jane P. Bearinger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


There is presently significant interest in cellular responses to physical forces, and numerous devices have been developed to apply stretch to cultured cells. Many of the early devices were limited by the heterogeneity of deformation of cells in different locations and by the high degree of anisotropy at a particular location. We have therefore developed a system to impose cyclic, large-strain, homogeneous stretch on a multiwell surface-treated silicone elastomer substrate plated with pulmonary epithelial cells. The pneumatically driven mechanism consists of four plates each with a clamp to fix one edge of the cruciform elastomer substrate. Four linear bearings set at predetermined angles between the plates ensure a constant ratio of principal strains throughout the stretch cycle. We present the design of the device and membrane shape, the surface modifications of the membrane to promote cell adhesion, predicted and experimental measurements of the strain field, and new data using cultured airway epithelial cells. We present for the first time the relationship between the magnitude of cyclic mechanical strain and the extent of wound closure and cell spreading.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1600-1610
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Applied Physiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2001


  • Airway epithelial cells
  • Biaxial strain
  • Cellular biomechanics
  • Surface chemistry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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