Understanding the extracellular forces that determine cell fate and maintenance.
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.1242/dev.158469
Stem cells interpret signals from their microenvironment while simultaneously modifying the niche through secreting factors and exerting mechanical forces. Many soluble stem cell cues have been determined over the past century, but in the past decade, our molecular understanding of mechanobiology has advanced to explain how passive and active forces induce similar signaling cascades that drive self-renewal, migration, differentiation or a combination of these outcomes. Improvements in stem cell culture methods, materials and biophysical tools that assess function have improved our understanding of these cascades. Here, we summarize these advances and offer perspective on ongoing challenges.