Mechanical cytoprotection: A review of cytoskeleton-protection approaches for cells

Amit Gefen, Daphne Weihs*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We review a class of cutting-edge approaches for cytoprotection of cells exposed to assaults such as sustained deformations, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, or ischemia. These approaches will enhance cell survival by mechanically protecting the structure and dynamics of the actin cytoskeleton (CSK). Cortical actin provides structural support to the plasma membrane (PM), protecting its integrity. Consequently, assaults can fragment the actin cortex leading to local, mechanical failure of the PM and poration of the cell. This disrupts normal trafficking of biomolecules across the PM, leading to loss of homeostasis and eventually, to cell death and tissue necrosis. Two different approaches to cytoskeletal protection are covered in this review paper. The first is to supply energy-related molecules to maintain and enhance the energy-consuming dynamics of the actin CSK. The second is to stabilize newly formed actin CSK directly for example through cross-linking or reinforcement at PM anchoring sites. Research in this area is clearly still in its infancy. Very few studies have gone beyond characterizing the effects of induced damage to the actin CSK (and subsequent PM collapse). Recent work, focusing instead on sustaining the actin under non-physiological or pathophysiological conditions, has shown great promise. Such cytoskeletal-protection may find medical applications in preventing or minimizing tissue damage when tissues are unhealthy or at risk, or in enhancing cell performance under stress. Here, we condense the relevant cell biology and biomechanics background, assess candidate cytoskeletal protective agents, and review published works that have shown potential for medical benefit in experimental model systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1321-1329
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Biomechanics
Issue number8
StatePublished - 24 May 2016


  • Actin dynamics enhancement and stabilization
  • Cell biomechanics
  • Cytoprotective agents
  • Mechanobiology
  • Plasma membrane integrity


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