Clinical doses of radiation reduce collagen matrix stiffness

APL Bioeng. 2018 Apr 3;2(3):031901. doi: 10.1063/1.5018327. eCollection 2018 Sep.


Cells receive mechanical cues from their extracellular matrix (ECM), which direct migration, differentiation, apoptosis, and in some cases, the transition to a cancerous phenotype. As a result, there has been significant research to develop methods to tune the mechanical properties of the ECM and understand cell-ECM dynamics more deeply. Here, we show that ionizing radiation can reduce the stiffness of an ex vivo tumor and an in vitro collagen matrix. When non-irradiated cancer cells were seeded in the irradiated matrix, adhesion, spreading, and migration were reduced. These data have ramifications for both in vitro and in vivo systems. In vitro, these data suggest that irradiation may be a method that could be used to create matrices with tailored mechanical properties. In vivo, these suggest that therapeutic doses of radiation may alter tissue mechanics directly.