Cell mechanotransduction is an area of intense research focus. Until now, very limited tools have existed to study how cells respond to changes in the extracellular matrix beyond, for example, mechanical deformation studies and twisting cytometry. However, emerging are a range of elastic, viscoelastic and even purely viscous materials that deform and dissipate on cellular length and timescales. This article reviews developments in these materials, typically translating from 2D model surfaces to 3D microenvironments and explores how cells interact with them. Specifically, it focuses on emerging concepts such as the molecular clutch model, how different extracellular matrix proteins engage the clutch under viscoelastic-stress relaxation conditions, and how mechanotransduction can drive transcriptional control through regulators such as YAP/TAZ.
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