At every stage of life, from embryo to adulthood, physical forces tug and squeeze at bodies from within.
These forces are vital, ensuring that cells are correctly positioned in a developing embryo, for example. But they also play a role in diseases like cancer. Yet despite their importance, relatively little is known about how cells sense, respond to and generate these forces.
To find out, researchers have turned to bespoke tools and methods, using them to probe lab-cultured cells and whole animals to get to the root of how mechanical forces sculpt life.
This is an audio version of our feature: The secret forces that squeeze and pull life into shape