Development of Micro-Mechanical Testing Equipment, 18-9390

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Principal Investigators
(Dan Nicolella)
Steve Kinyon
Daehwan Shin

Inclusive Dates: 04/01/03 - Current

Background - The mechanisms of biological mechanotransduction, or how mechanical signals such as deformation are transduced into biological signals such as gene expression, are not well understood. Much of the current mechanotransduction research involving cell mechanics has investigated the application of mechanical stimulation to many hundreds of thousands of cells in a culture dish or relatively large pieces of biological tissue while quantifying their gross biological response. Most of these methods do not extract specific cellular and sub-cellular mechanical responses to correlate with biological response due to limitations in their analysis capabilities. The proposed project will aim to develop unique mechanical testing systems that can be used in combination with the Institute's existing image based micromechanics displacement mapping technology, called DISMAP, to perform mechanotransduction research.

Approach - The objective of this project is to develop a state-of-the-art micromechanical biological tissue and cellular testing capability. The technologies involved in this investigation include advanced motion control and data acquisition systems optimized for operation at the small scales required for this kind of testing. The capabilities required to achieve the above requirements include cytoindentation and micro-mechanical material testing.

Cytoindentation involves the application of a small mechanical force to a single cell, and the measurement of the resulting force-displacement response. This is achieved with a small, flexible stylus and nanopositioning stage, with the images analyzed using DISMAP. The micro-mechanical testing will involve micropositioning stages applying forces to larger biological samples, such as bone, while being imaged.

Accomplishments - Much of the system design work on the cytoindenter and micro-mechanical tester are complete. Issues such as force-displacement calibration of the indenter probe have been worked out, and the control hardware has been purchased. Creation of the control software is ongoing. The mechanical design and performance modeling of the micro-mechanical testing system is ongoing, with much of the mechanical and control component selection complete.

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