What stem cells become depends in part on what they 'mechanically' feel around them. Soft tissues such as fat bear little physical stress and have less abundant structural protein, whereas stiffer tissues like muscle and bone sustain high stress and have a relative abundance of structural proteins. We have begun to uncover systematic relationships between such tissue properties and differentiation processes, having first shown that a soft matrix helps specify soft tissue lineages of stem cells while a stiff matrix helps specify stiff tissue lineages of stem cells. These general principles seem to apply to normal stem cells and perhaps apply or go awry for cancer stem cells.
Dennis E. Discher, "Cells might not see where they are, but they certainly feel the mechanics of their microenvironment! (Conference Presentation)," Proc. SPIE 9710, Optical Elastography and Tissue Biomechanics III, 97100V (Presented at SPIE BiOS: February 14, 2016; Published: 11 November 2016); https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2214465.4848677998001.
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