Skip to main content


Paper on cell sensing of a rigid boundary

Research Achievements

Paper on cell sensing of a rigid boundary

IGERT Fellow Heather Cirka has a paper under review for the Journal of Biophysics, entitled "Nonlinear strain stiffening is not sufficient to explain how far cells can 'feel' on fibrous protein gels", by Mathilda Rudnicki, Heather Cirka, Edward A. Sander, Qi Wen, and Kristen L. Billiar. The paper is significant because in order to be able to understand how cells sense their environment, we need to know how far away they can detect mechanical stimuli. Recent observations reported in the literature suggest that cells on fibrous extracellular matrix materials (collagen, fibrin) can sense over much larger distances than they do on synthetic elastic materials (such as polyacrylamide gels). Cell sensing of a rigid boundary was systematically investigated via measuring cell spread area on a sloped gel (both collagen and fibrin) which increased in thickness from 0 to 150 um. Spreading was affected on gels as thick as 150 um, indicating that they are able to sense the rigid boundary.