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Through a combination of imaging, direct mechanical testing and modelling we are investigating the mechanical properties of tissues and the role of mechanics in disease and repair. 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.

Using information from scanning probe and optical microscopy, we take a 'bottom-up' approach to set the arrangement, orientation and properties of each constituent part, and assemble them into a tissue structure that is simulated on a CPU. Fluid is simulated on a GPU, with fluid-solid interactions 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.

We routinely use finite element analysis to explore the mechanical and signalling roles of structural features observed in experiments. In the musculoskeletal system, we are particularly interested in toughening mechanisms resulting from constituent organisation and interactions, piezoelectric domains, and proteoglycan distributions.