Pattern based Contractility Screening (PaCS): 

A reference-free alternative to traction force microscopy

Ajinkya Ghagre

The sensing and generation of cellular forces are essential aspects of life. Traction Force Microscopy (TFM) has emerged as a standard broadly applicable methodology to measure cell contractility and its role in cell behavior. While TFM platforms have enabled diverse discoveries, their implementation remains limited in part due to various constraints, such as time-consuming substrate fabrication techniques, the need to detach cells to measure null force images, followed by complex imaging and analysis, and the unavailability of cells for post-processing. Here we introduce a reference-free technique to measure cell contractile work in real-time, with basic substrate fabrication methodologies, simple imaging, and analysis with the availability of the cells for post-processing. In this technique, we confine the cells on fluorescent adhesive protein micropatterns of a known area on compliant silicone substrates and use the cell deformed pattern area to calculate cell contractile work. We validated this approach by comparing this Pattern-based Contractility Screening (PaCS) to conventional bead-displacement TFM and show quantitative agreement between the methodologies. Using this platform, we measure the contractile work of highly metastatic MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells is significantly higher than non-invasive MCF-7 cells. PaCS enables the broader implementation of contractile work measurements in diverse quantitative biology and biomedical applications.

Ghagre, A et al. “Pattern-Based Contractility Screening, a Reference-Free Alternative to Traction Force Microscopy Methodology”, ACS Appl Mater Interfaces,13(17):19726-19735, 2021.

McGill University is located on land which has long served as a site of meeting and exchange amongst Indigenous peoples. We honor, recognize, and respect these nations as the traditional stewards of the lands and waters on which we meet today. 

Dr. Allen Ehrlicher

Department of Bioengineering

McConnell Engineering Building

3480 University Street, Room 350

Montreal, Quebec H3A 2A7

Phone: 514-714-8239

Fax: 514-398-7379


Office: McConnell Engineering Building 358