Abstract: As a frontier of biology, mechanobiology plays an important role in tissue and biomedical engineering. It is a common sense that mechanical cues under extracellular microenvironment affect a lot in regulating the behaviors of cells such as proliferation and gene expression, etc. In such an interdisciplinary field, engineering methods like the pneumatic and motor-driven devices have been employed for years. Nevertheless, such techniques usually rely on complex structures, which cost much but not so easy to control. Dielectric elastomer actuators (DEAs) are well known as a kind of soft actuation technology, and their research prospect in biomechanical field is gradually concerned due to their properties just like large deformation (> 100%) and fast response (< 1 ms). In addition, DEAs are usually optically transparent and can be fabricated into small volume, which make them easy to cooperate with regular microscope to realize real-time dynamic imaging of cells. This paper first reviews the basic components, principle, and evaluation of DEAs and then overview some corresponding applications of DEAs for cellular mechanobiology research. We also provide a comparison between DEA-based bioreactors and current custom-built devices and share some opinions about their potential applications in the future according to widely reported results via other methods.[Figure not available: see fulltext.].
- Dielectric elastomer actuator
- Mechanical stimulus