Quantitative assessment of cell contractility using polarized light microscopy
Cell contractility regulates multiple cell behaviors which contribute to both normal and pathological processes. However, measuring cell contractility remains a technical challenge in complex biological samples. The current state of the art technologies employed to measure cell contractility have inherent limitations that greatly limit the experimental conditions under which they can be used. Here, we use quantitative polarization microscopy to extract information about cell contractility. We show that the optical retardance signal measured from the cell body is proportional to cell contractility in 2-dimensional and 3-dimensional platforms, and as such can be used as a straightforward, tractable methodology to assess cell contractility in a variety of systems. This label-free optical method provides a novel and flexible way to assess cellular forces of single cells and monolayers in several cell types, fixed or live, in addition to cells present in situ in mouse tumor tissue samples. This easily implementable and experimentally versatile method will significantly contribute to the cell mechanics field.