Cell-generated mechanical forces play a critical role during tissue morphogenesis and organ formation in the embryo. However, little is known about how these forces shape embryonic organs, mainly because it has not been possible to measure cellular forces within developing 3D tissues in vivo and in situ. We make use of oil microdroplets, similar in size to individual cells, with defined mechanical properties and displaying ligands for cell surface adhesion receptors, as force transducers in living embryonic tissues.

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