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We combine advanced imaging and computational techniques to provide a novel view into the structure-function relationships in the musculoskeletal system, its diseases and treatments.

Brown group photonics mechanics and modelling of biomedical materials

The incredible performance of our tissues, far beyond that of synthetic constructs, is underpinned by a complex and finely balanced structure. Central to this is collagen, the most abundant protein in our bodies, which plays a dominant role in the functioning of tissues such as tendon, ligament, bone, cartilage, cornea, skin, heart and blood vessels. The mechanical and electrical properties of collagen also provide a versatility not seen outside of biological materials. Through organisation and interactions with other proteins, salts and water on the nanometre to micrometre scales, collagen can work effectively in a wide variety of tissue configurations to provide exceptional mechanical performance, tuned to specialised applications. It further enables continuity between tissue types and the basis, for example, of bone-cartilage, bone-tendon and bone-ligament transitions, modulating function over many hierarchical levels.

With its importance to healthy function, nanometre to millimetre scale changes in structure provide insight into the mechanisms of disease initiation and progression, and therefore targets for the development of new diagnostics and treatments. As a group, we use advanced imaging and computational tools to understand normal and pathological tissue function, and to form the basis for early-stage diagnostics. The growing knowledge of fundamental structure-function relationships in our tissues provides further opportunities for translation by informing the development of surfaces, 3-D constructs, and surgical approaches for the treatment of musculoskeletal disease.

Outside of musculoskeletal science, the group is actively engaged in studying structure-function relationships in high-performance biological materials including spider silk, ivory and wood. 

Selected publications

Related research themes