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BioMed Research International
Volume 2013, Article ID 101979, 10 pages
Review Article

Regulation of Tissue Fibrosis by the Biomechanical Environment

Department of Cell Biology and Anatomy, University of South Carolina, School of Medicine, Columbia, SC 29209, USA

Received 6 May 2013; Accepted 10 May 2013

Academic Editor: Mauro S. G. Pavao

Copyright © 2013 Wayne Carver and Edie C. Goldsmith. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The biomechanical environment plays a fundamental role in embryonic development, tissue maintenance, and pathogenesis. Mechanical forces play particularly important roles in the regulation of connective tissues including not only bone and cartilage but also the interstitial tissues of most organs. In vivo studies have correlated changes in mechanical load to modulation of the extracellular matrix and have indicated that increased mechanical force contributes to the enhanced expression and deposition of extracellular matrix components or fibrosis. Pathological fibrosis contributes to dysfunction of many organ systems. A variety of in vitro models have been utilized to evaluate the effects of mechanical force on extracellular matrix-producing cells. In general, application of mechanical stretch, fluid flow, and compression results in increased expression of extracellular matrix components. More recent studies have indicated that tissue rigidity also provides profibrotic signals to cells. The mechanisms whereby cells detect mechanical signals and transduce them into biochemical responses have received considerable attention. Cell surface receptors for extracellular matrix components and intracellular signaling pathways are instrumental in the mechanotransduction process. Understanding how mechanical signals are transmitted from the microenvironment will identify novel therapeutic targets for fibrosis and other pathological conditions.