Biomedical engineering professor Corey Neu and PhD student Benjamin Seelbinder of the University of Colorado at Boulder wanted to answer two fundamental questions. How do cells adapt to their environment, and how does a mechanical environment influence a cell? What they discovered during more than six years of research has the potential to help tackle major health obstacles and advance artificial tissue engineering, writes Rachel Leuthauser of the University of Colorado at Boulder. Their research, published on Dec. 2 in Nature Biomedical Engineering and titled “Nuclear Deformation Guides Chromatin Reorganization in Cardiac Development and Disease,” found that mechanical forces guide the development of a cell through the reorganization of its nucleus and could influence future pathologies. “We were interested in the development of healthy cells, and the health of a cell requires that the nucleus senses mechanical forces in a particular way,” Neu said. One of those forces is tension, Neu and Seelbinder explained. Tension stretches the cell in a defined way, resulting in the reorganization of the nucleus. That modification changes the expression of genes, which could indicate certain diseases in patients. This understanding of the cell developmental process also helped Neu and Seelbinder conclude that scientists could influence a cell themselves. Researchers can change the environment by manipulating the tension moving through a cell, which could be used to create more authentic artificial tissues. Seelbinder discovered that mechanical forces shape nuclei while studying the cardiovascular cells of embryotic mice. Their research is a blueprint of the developmental path, which could set the stage for new regenerative technologies and the possibility of organ-on-chip models used in drug discovery.