What do we know about mechanical strain in lung alveoli?

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

139 Scopus citations


The pulmonary alveolus, terminal gas-exchange unit of the lung, is composed of alveolar epithelial and endothelial cells separated by a thin basement membrane and interstitial space. These cells participate in the maintenance of a delicate system regulated not only by biological factors but also by the mechanical environment of the lung, which undergoes dynamic deformation during breathing. Clinical and animal studies as well as cell culture studies point toward a strong influence of mechanical forces on lung cells and tissues including effects on growth and repair, surfactant release, injury, and inflammation. However, despite substantial advances in our understanding of lung mechanics over the last half century, there are still many unanswered questions regarding the micromechanics of the alveolus and how it deforms during lung inflation. Therefore, the aims of this review are to draw a multidisciplinary account of the mechanics of the alveolus on the basis of its structure, biology, and chemistry and to compare estimates of alveolar deformation from previous studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)L625-L635
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2011


  • Distension
  • Lung injury
  • Mechanotransduction
  • Stretch

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)
  • Cell Biology


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