Rapid induction of matrix production and mechanical strengthening is essential to the development of bio-artificial constructs for repair and replacement of load-bearing connective tissues. Toward this end, we describe the development of a mechanical bioreactor and its application to investigate the influence of cyclic strain on fibroblast proliferation, matrix accumulation, and the mechanical properties of fibroblast-seeded polyurethane constructs (FSPC). Human fibroblasts were cultured in 10% serum-containing conditions within three-dimensional, porous elastomeric substrates under static conditions and a model regime of cyclic strain (10% strain, 0.25 Hz, 8 h/day), with and without ascorbic acid supplementation. After one week, the combination of cyclic strain and ascorbic acid resulted in significantly increased construct elastic modulus (>110%) relative to either condition alone. In contrast, cyclic strain alone was sufficient to stimulate significant increases in fibroblast proliferation. Mechanical strengthening of FSPCs was accompanied by increased type I collagen and fibronectin matrix accumulation and distribution, and significantly increased gene expression for type I collagen, TGFbeta-1, and CTGF. These results suggest that strain-induced conditioning in vitro leads to mechanical strengthening of fibroblast/material constructs, most likely resulting from increased collagen matrix deposition, secondary to strain-induced increases in cytokine production.