Scientists at the University of Illinois and collaborators in China say they have demonstrated that external mechanical force can directly regulate gene expression. Their study (“Transcription Upregulation Force-Induced Firect Stretching of Chromatin”), published in Nature Materials, also identified the pathway that conveys the force from the outside of the cell into the nucleus.

Identifying the ways mechanical forces send signals within cells has applications not only in fundamental cell biology, but also for cancer, stem cells, and regenerative medicine, said mechanical science and engineering professor Ning Wang, Ph.D.  who led the study with cell and developmental biology professor Andrew Belmont, Ph.D.

“Each cell in your body has the same DNA, but tissues behave very differently because genes are expressed differently,” Dr. Wang said. “There is so much we don’t know about gene expression. I think this work is the beginning to unravel some of the un