The extracellular matrix mechanics in the vasculature
Mechanical stimuli from the extracellular matrix (ECM) modulate vascular differentiation, morphogenesis and dysfunction of the vasculature. With innovation in measurements, we can better characterize vascular microenvironment mechanics in health and disease. Recent advances in material sciences and stem cell biology enable us to accurately recapitulate the complex and dynamic ECM mechanical microenvironment for in vitro studies. These biomimetic approaches help us understand the signaling pathways in disease pathologies, identify therapeutic targets, build tissue replacement and activate tissue regeneration. This Review analyzes how ECM mechanics regulate vascular homeostasis and dysfunction. We highlight approaches to examine ECM mechanics at tissue and cellular levels, focusing on how mechanical interactions between cells and the ECM regulate vascular phenotype, especially under certain pathological conditions. Finally, we explore the development of biomaterials to emulate, measure and alter the physical microenvironment of pathological ECM to understand cell–ECM mechanical interactions toward the development of therapeutics.