Cell death induced by mechanical compression on engineered muscle results from a gradual physiological mechanism

Y. Wu, D.W.J. van der Schaft, F.P.T. Baaijens, C.W.J. Oomens

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Deep tissue injury (DTI), a type of pressure ulcer, arises in the muscle layers adjacent to bony prominences due to sustained mechanical loading. DTI presents a serious problem in the clinic, as it is often not visible until reaching an advanced stage. One of the causes can be direct mechanical deformation of the muscle tissue and cell. The mechanism of cell death induced by mechanical compression was studied using bio-artificial skeletal muscle tissues. Compression was applied by placing weights on top of the constructs. The morphological changes of the cytoskeleton and the phosphorylation of mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPK) under compression were investigated. Moreover, inhibitors for each of the three major MAPK groups, p38, ERK, and JNK, were applied separately to look at their roles in the compression caused apoptosis and necrosis. The present study for the first time showed that direct mechanical compression activates MAPK phosphorylation. Compression also leads to a gradual destruction of the cytoskeleton. The percentage apoptosis is strongly reduced by p38 and JNK inhibitors down to the level of the unloaded group. This phenomenon could be observed up to 24. h after initiation of compression. Therefore, cell death in bio-artificial muscle tissue caused by mechanical compression is primarily caused by a physiological mechanism, rather than through a physical mechanism which kills the cell directly. These findings reveal insight of muscle cell death under mechanical compression. Moreover, the result indicates a potential clinical solution to prevent DTI by pre-treating with p38 or/and JNK inhibitors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1071-1077
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Biomechanics
Issue number7
Early online date19 Feb 2016
Publication statusPublished - 3 May 2016


  • Apoptosis
  • Cytoskeleton
  • MAPK
  • Necrosis
  • Tissue engineering


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