On tensegrity in cell mechanics

K. Y. Volokh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)195-214
Number of pages20
JournalMCB Molecular and Cellular Biomechanics
Issue number3
StatePublished - 23 Sep 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Cell mechanics
  • Cytoskeleton
  • Microfilaments
  • Microtubules
  • Tensegrity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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