Mechanotransduction: Relevance to Physical Therapist Practice—Understanding Our Ability to Affect Genetic Expression Through Mechanical Forces

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Abstract

Mechanotransduction, the mechanism by which mechanical perturbation influences genetic expression and cellular behavior, is an area of molecular biology undergoing rapid exploration and discovery. Cells are sensitive to forces such as shear, tension, and compression, and they respond accordingly through cellular proliferation, migration, tissue repair, altered metabolism, and even stem cell differentiation and maturation. The study of how cells sense and respond to mechanical stimulation is under robust expansion, with new scientific methods and technologies at our disposal. The application of these technologies to physical therapist practice may hold answers to some of our age-old questions while creating new avenues for our profession to optimize movement for societal health. Embracing this science as foundational to our profession will allow us to be valuable scientific collaborators with distinctive knowledge of the effects of loading. These partnerships will be key to augmenting the clinical utility of emerging therapies such as regenerative medicine, tissue engineering, and gene therapy. Collaboration with other scientific disciplines in these endeavors, along with the inclusion and application of these discoveries in our academic programs, will enhance the understanding of the impact of our practice on biologic and genetic processes. A basic understanding of mechanotransduction and its relevance to physical therapist practice is warranted to begin the conversation.

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