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Internet-based image analysis quantifies contractile behavior of individual fibroblasts inside model tissue.
In a cell-populated collagen gel, intrinsic fiber structure visible in differential interference contrast images can provide markers for an in situ strain gauge to quantify cell-gel mechanics, while optical sections of fluorescent protein distribution capture cytoskeletal kinematics. Mechanics quantification can be derived automatically from timelapse differential interference contrast images using a Deformation Quantification and Analysis software package accessible online at http://dqa.web.cmu.edu. In our studies, fibroblast contractile machinery was observed to function entirely within pseudopods, while GFP-alpha-actinin concentrated in pseudopod tips and cortex. Complex strain patterns around individual cells showed instances of both elastic and inelastic strain transmission, suggesting a role in observed long-range alignment of cells.