Traditionally, cell analysis has focused on using molecular biomarkers for basic research, cell preparation, and clinical diagnostics; however, new microtechnologies are enabling evaluation of the mechanical properties of cells at throughputs that make them amenable to widespread use. We review the current understanding of how the mechanical characteristics of cells relate to underlying molecular and architectural changes, describe how these changes evolve with cell-state and disease processes, and propose promising biomedical applications that will be facilitated by the increased throughput of mechanical testing: from diagnosing cancer and monitoring immune states to preparing cells for regenerative medicine. We provide background about techniques that laid the groundwork for the quantitative understanding of cell mechanics and discuss current efforts to develop robust techniques for rapid analysis that aim to implement mechanophenotyping as a routine tool in biomedicine. Looking forward, we describe additional milestones that will facilitate broad adoption, as well as new directions not only in mechanically assessing cells but also in perturbing them to passively engineer cell state.


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