When Stiffness Matters: Mechanosensing in Heart Development and Disease

Roberto Gaetani, Eric Adriano Zizzi, Marco Agostino Deriu, Umberto Morbiducci, Maurizio Pesce, Elisa Messina

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


During embryonic morphogenesis, the heart undergoes a complex series of cellular phenotypic maturations (e.g., transition of myocytes from proliferative to quiescent or maturation of the contractile apparatus), and this involves stiffening of the extracellular matrix (ECM) acting in concert with morphogenetic signals. The maladaptive remodeling of the myocardium, one of the processes involved in determination of heart failure, also involves mechanical cues, with a progressive stiffening of the tissue that produces cellular mechanical damage, inflammation, and ultimately myocardial fibrosis. The assessment of the biomechanical dependence of the molecular machinery (in myocardial and non-myocardial cells) is therefore essential to contextualize the maturation of the cardiac tissue at early stages and understand its pathologic evolution in aging. Because systems to perform multiscale modeling of cellular and tissue mechanics have been developed, it appears particularly novel to design integrated mechano-molecular models of heart development and disease to be tested in ex vivo reconstituted cells/tissue-mimicking conditions. In the present contribution, we will discuss the latest implication of mechanosensing in heart development and pathology, describe the most recent models of cell/tissue mechanics, and delineate novel strategies to target the consequences of heart failure with personalized approaches based on tissue engineering and induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) technologies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number334
JournalFrontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology
Publication statusPublished - May 25 2020


  • cardiac regeneration
  • cardiac tissue engineering
  • mechanosensing and regulation
  • stiffness
  • tissue modeling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


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