Our philosophy is to use structure as the basis for understanding the mechanics of tissues and other biological materials, and to provide a link between the mechanical environment and biological feedbacks. Through a combination of imaging, direct mechanical testing and modelling we are investigating the physical properties of tissues and the role of mechanics in disease and repair.
Materials such as spider silks and collagens are built from relatively poor base materials, with relatively weak bonding, yet deliver outstanding performance. Using information from scanning probe and optical experiments, we take a ‘bottom-up’ approach to set the arrangement, orientation and properties of each constituent part, and use computational approaches to examine how they function together to deliver their exceptional properties. We are also interested in exploring function at higher levels of hierarchy, in which different spider silk types work together in a web, or collagen forms networks in tissues such as cartilage. Here, we assemble solid structure based on our experimental data for simulated on a CPU, with fluid simulated on a GPU. Fluid-solid interactions can then be calculated at each time step. Using structural and biological feedbacks, degradation and repair processes can be simulated with structural changes referenced against experiment. Focusing on collagen, we have created a range of cartilage structures to explore the effects of crosslinking and constituent properties on damage resistance and disease-driven structural change.
In addition to our own codes, we routinely use finite element approaches to explore the mechanical consequences of new phenomena observed in experiments, and a pathway to explore mechanism in the structure-property-function relationships in the natural world.