Mechanical force is a fundamental regulator of cell phenotype. Myofibroblasts are central mediators of fibrosis, a major unmet clinical need characterised by the deposition of excessive matrix proteins. Traction forces of myofibroblasts play a key role in remodelling the matrix and modulate the activities of embedded stromal cells. Here, we employ a combination of unsupervised computational analysis, cytoskeletal profiling and single cell traction force microscopy as a functional readout to uncover how the complex spatiotemporal dynamics and mechanics of living human myofibroblast shape sub-cellular profiling of traction forces in fibrosis. We resolve distinct biophysical communities of myofibroblasts, and our results provide a new paradigm for studying functional heterogeneity in human stromal cells.
Focal adhesion, Myofibroblast, Single cell, Traction force