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Molecular determinants of intrinsic cellular stiffness in health and disease


In recent years, the role of intrinsic biophysical features, especially cellular stiffness, in diverse cellular and disease processes is being increasingly recognized. New high throughput techniques for the quantification of cellular stiffness facilitate the study of their roles in health and diseases. In this review, we summarized recent discovery about how cellular stiffness is involved in cell stemness, tumorigenesis, and blood diseases. In addition, we review the molecular mechanisms underlying the gene regulation of cellular stiffness in health and disease progression. Finally, we discussed the current understanding on how the cytoskeleton structure and the regulation of these genes contribute to cellular stiffness, highlighting where the field of cellular stiffness is headed.

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We thank members of the Ho Laboratory for constructive feedback and criticisms on an earlier draft of this manuscript.


This work was supported in part by the Shenzhen-Hong Kong–Macau Technology Research Programme Type C (J.W.K.H), AIR@InnoHK administered by Innovation and Technology Commission (J.W.K.H), and National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 32171400, H.C.).

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J.W.K.H. conceptualized the project and supervised all aspect of the research process. Z.S. contributed to most of the review process and wrote the first draft of the entire manuscript. Z.C. and H.C. contributed to the review of the measurement methods and Fig. 1. K.M. contributed to critical revision of the entire manuscript. All authors read and approved the final version of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Joshua W. K. Ho.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Su, Z., Chen, Z., Ma, K. et al. Molecular determinants of intrinsic cellular stiffness in health and disease. Biophys Rev 14, 1197–1209 (2022).

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  • Cellular stiffness
  • Cytoskeleton
  • Biophysical profiling
  • Elasticity
  • Biomechanics