Growth and remodelling of living tissues: perspectives, challenges and opportunities


One of the most remarkable differences between classical engineering materials and living matter is the ability of the latter to grow and remodel in response to diverse stimuli. The mechanical behaviour of living matter is governed not only by an elastic or viscoelastic response to loading on short time scales up to several minutes, but also by often crucial growth and remodelling responses on time scales from hours to months. Phenomena of growth and remodelling play important roles, for example during morphogenesis in early life as well as in homeostasis and pathogenesis in adult tissues, which often adapt to changes in their chemo-mechanical environment as a result of ageing, diseases, injury or surgical intervention. Mechano-regulated growth and remodelling are observed in various soft tissues, ranging from tendons and arteries to the eye and brain, but also in bone, lower organisms and plants. Understanding and predicting growth and remodelling of living systems is one of the most important challenges in biomechanics and mechanobiology. This article reviews the current state of growth and remodelling as it applies primarily to soft tissues, and provides a perspective on critical challenges and future directions.
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