Scientists from 4D-BIOMAP, an ERC research project at Carlos III University of Madrid (UC3M), have developed a new experimental method, based on magneto-active polymers, to study cell behavior.
These compounds, consisting of a polymeric matrix (for example, an elastomer) containing magnetic particles (for example, iron), react mechanically by modifying their shape and their rigidity. This system could be used to study complex scenarios (such as brain trauma, wound healing, etc.) or to influence cellular responses, guiding their functions.
We succeeded in reproducing the local deformations that occur in the brain when subjected to a shock. This would make it possible to reproduce these cases in the laboratory, analyzing what happens to cells and how they are damaged in real time. In addition, we validated the system by demonstrating its ability to transmit forces to cells and to act on them..”
Daniel García González, Researcher in charge of 4D-BIOMAP, Department of Continuum Mechanics and Structural Analysis, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid – Officina de Informacion Cientifica
The idea of this project is to be able to carry out studies reproducing complex biological processes thanks to a new virtually assisted experimental system, which allows non-invasive and real-time control of the mechanical environment. Cells and biological tissues are continuously subjected to mechanical stresses from their surrounding substrate. The analysis and control of the forces that influence their behavior would therefore be an important step for the “mechanobiology” community.
The system proposed by 4D-BIOMAP is based on the use of extremely soft magneto-active polymers which mimic the rigidity of biological materials. Thanks to their qualities, magneto-active materials allow researchers to carry out unlimited monitoring of biological substrates, since the mechanical modifications applied during experimentation can be reversible.
“Supported by the computer model, we used all this basic science to design an intelligent actuation system which, coupled with a microscope developed within the ERC, allows us to visualize the cellular response in situ. We have thus consolidated a global framework vision to stimulate cellular systems with magneto-active smart materials”, explains Daniel García González. This proposed framework paves the way for understanding the complex “mechanobiological” processes that occur during states of dynamic deformation, such as traumatic brain injury, pathological skin scarring, or fibrotic remodeling of the heart during heart infarction. myocardium, for example.