Living cells and tissues are highly mechanically sensitive and active. Mechanical forces and stimuli influence the shape, motility, and functions of cells, modulate the behavior of tissues, and play a key role in diseases as different as osteoarthritis and cancer metastasis. In this talk, I will discuss the mechanical structure function properties of cells and tissues that arise due to the interplay of their structure, mechanics, and statistical mechanical properties. I will use three examples, in-vitro cytoskeletal networks at the cellular scale, and articular cartilage tissue, and co-cultures of breast cancer cells and healthy breast epithelial cells at the tissue scale, to illustrate how the emergent mechanobiology of living systems is facilitated by the heterogeneous and composite nature of these systems, proximity to phase transitions, and active processes.
I will discuss predictive mathematical models of these systems, and compare our results with experiments. Understanding the biophysical structure-function properties of these systems will provide mechanistic insights into the robustness and tunability of cell and tissue properties, tissue repair therapies, and design principles for soft robotics.