Biomechanics and Modeling in Mechanobiology

, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp 111–121

Effect of the glycocalyx layer on transmission of interstitial flow shear stress to embedded cells

Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s10237-012-0385-8

Cite this article as:
Tarbell, J.M. & Shi, ZD. Biomech Model Mechanobiol (2013) 12: 111. doi:10.1007/s10237-012-0385-8


In this paper, a simple theoretical model is developed to describe the transmission of force from interstitial fluid flow to the surface of a cell covered by a proteoglycan / glycoprotein layer (glycocalyx) and embedded in an extracellular matrix. Brinkman equations are used to describe flow through the extracellular matrix and glycocalyx layers and the solid mechanical stress developed in the glycocalyx by the fluid flow loading is determined. Using reasonable values for the Darcy permeability of extracellular matrix and glycocalyx layers and interstitial flow velocity, we are able to estimate the fluid and solid shear stresses imposed on the surface of embedded vascular, cartilage and tumor cells in vivo and in vitro. The principal finding is that the surface solid stress is typically one to two orders of magnitude larger than the surface fluid stress. This indicates that interstitial flow shear stress can be sensed by the cell surface glycocalyx, supporting numerous recent observations that interstitial flow can induce mechanotransduction in embedded cells. This study may contribute to understanding of interstitial flow-related mechanobiology in embryogenesis, tumorigenesis, tissue physiology and diseases and has implications in tissue engineering.


Mechanotransduction Flow sensing Smooth muscle cell Cancer cell Collagen gel 3-dimensional 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biomedical EngineeringThe City College of New YorkNew YorkUSA

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