The Picabo Streets, Shaquille O'Neals, Henrik Larssons, and Sammy Sosas of this world all face the dangers of sports-related injuries, as do weekend athletes everywhere. These injuries blow out knees, sprain hamstrings, tear up elbows, and throw out shoulders. Letting time heal the wounds of sports aficionados who have day jobs is ugly enough, but for professional players, chronic, lingering injuries threaten careers and the bottom line.

For years, investigators have tried to grow cartilage and bone in vitro using various growth factors but have largely ignored the mechanical environment of the cell. Growth factors such as bone morphogenic proteins are known to be potent activators of bone-cell proliferation and differentiation, but other conditions, such as how the physical environment affects cells, are just starting to be appreciated. But just how significant this relative mix of biochemical factors and biomechanical conditions is to the success of tissue engineering remains to...

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