Measuring cell-generated forces: a guide to the available tools

Nat Methods. 2016 Apr 28;13(5):415-23. doi: 10.1038/nmeth.3834.


Forces generated by cells are critical regulators of cell adhesion, signaling, and function, and they are also essential drivers in the morphogenetic events of development. Over the past 20 years, several methods have been developed to measure these forces. However, despite recent substantial interest in understanding the contribution of these forces in biology, implementation and adoption of the developed methods by the broader biological community remain challenging because of the inherently multidisciplinary expertise required to conduct and interpret the measurements. In this review, we introduce the established methods and highlight the technical challenges associated with implementing each technique in a biological laboratory.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Biomechanical Phenomena*
  • Biophysical Phenomena*
  • Cell Adhesion / physiology*
  • Cell Movement / physiology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Elastic Modulus / physiology
  • Extracellular Matrix / physiology*
  • Microscopy, Atomic Force
  • Models, Biological*