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On Tensegrity in Cell Mechanics

K. Y. Volokh*

* Faculty of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Technion–Israel Institute of Technology. E-mail:

Molecular & Cellular Biomechanics 2011, 8(3), 195-214.


All models are wrong, but some are useful. This famous saying mirrors the situation in cell mechanics as well. It looks like no particular model of the cell deformability can be unconditionally preferred over others and different models reveal different aspects of the mechanical behavior of living cells. The purpose of the present work is to discuss the so-called tensegrity models of the cell cytoskeleton. It seems that the role of the cytoskeleton in the overall mechanical response of the cell was not appreciated until Donald Ingber put a strong emphasis on it. It was fortunate that Ingber linked the cytoskeletal structure to the fascinating art of tensegrity architecture. This link sparked interest and argument among biologists, physicists, mathematicians, and engineers. At some point the enthusiasm regarding tensegrity perhaps became overwhelming and as a reaction to that some skepticism built up. To demystify Ingber's ideas the present work aims at pinpointing the meaning of tensegrity and its role in our understanding of the importance of the cytoskeleton for the cell deformability and motility. It should be noted also that this paper emphasizes basic ideas rather than carefully follows the chronology of the development of tensegrity models. The latter can be found in the comprehensive review by Dimitrije Stamenovic (2006) to which the present work is complementary.


Cite This Article

Volokh, K. Y. (2011). On Tensegrity in Cell Mechanics. Molecular & Cellular Biomechanics, 8(3), 195–214.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License , which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
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