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  1. Brush-like elastomers with crystallizable side chains hold promise for biomedical applications requiring the presence of two distinct mechanical states below and above body temperature: hard and supersoft. The hard semicrystalline state facilitates piercing of the body whereupon the material softens to match the mechanics of surrounding soft tissue. To understand the transition between the two states, the crystallization process was studied with synchrotron X-ray scattering for a series of brush elastomers with poly(ε-caprolactone) side chains bearing from 7 to 13 repeat units. The so-called bottlebrush correlation peak was used to monitor configuration of bottlebrush backbones in the amorphous regions during the crystallization process. In the course of crystallization, the backbones are expelled into the interlamellar amorphous gaps, which is accompanied by their conformational changes and leads to partitioning to unconfined (melt) and confined (semicrystalline) (conformational) states. The crystallization process starts by consumption of the unconfined macromolecules by the growing crystals followed by reconfiguration of macromolecules within the already grown spherulites.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 1, 2023
  2. Polymeric networks are commonly used for various biomedical applications, from reconstructive surgery to wearable electronics. Some materials may be soft, firm, strong, or damping however, implementing all four properties into a single material to replicate the mechanical properties of tissue has been inaccessible. Herein, we present the A- g -B brush-like graft copolymer platform as a framework for fabrication of materials with independently tunable softness and firmness, capable of reaching a strength of ∼10 MPa on par with stress-supporting tissues such as blood vessel, muscle, and skin. These properties are maintained by architectural control, therefore diverse mechanical phenotypes are attainable for a variety of different chemistries. Utilizing this attribute, we demonstrate the capability of the A- g -B platform to enhance specific characteristics such as tackiness, damping, and moldability.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available September 21, 2023
  3. Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 12, 2023
  4. Baden, Tom (Ed.)
    Animals modulate sensory processing in concert with motor actions. Parallel copies of motor signals, called corollary discharge (CD), prepare the nervous system to process the mixture of externally and self-generated (reafferent) feedback that arises during locomotion. Commonly, CD in the peripheral nervous system cancels reafference to protect sensors and the central nervous system from being fatigued and overwhelmed by self-generated feedback. However, cancellation also limits the feedback that contributes to an animal’s awareness of its body position and motion within the environment, the sense of proprioception. We propose that, rather than cancellation, CD to the fish lateral line organ restructures reafference to maximize proprioceptive information content. Fishes’ undulatory body motions induce reafferent feedback that can encode the body’s instantaneous configuration with respect to fluid flows. We combined experimental and computational analyses of swimming biomechanics and hair cell physiology to develop a neuromechanical model of how fish can track peak body curvature, a key signature of axial undulatory locomotion. Without CD, this computation would be challenged by sensory adaptation, typified by decaying sensitivity and phase distortions with respect to an input stimulus. We find that CD interacts synergistically with sensor polarization to sharpen sensitivity along sensors’ preferred axes. The sharpening ofmore »sensitivity regulates spiking to a narrow interval coinciding with peak reafferent stimulation, which prevents adaptation and homogenizes the otherwise variable sensor output. Our integrative model reveals a vital role of CD for ensuring precise proprioceptive feedback during undulatory locomotion, which we term external proprioception.« less
  5. Minimally invasive injection yields robust hydrogels that mimic the mechanics and water fraction of surrounding tissue.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 21, 2023
  6. Interactions between colloidal-scale structures govern the physical properties of soft and biological materials, and knowledge of the forces associated with these interactions is critical for understanding and controlling these materials. A common approach to quantify colloidal interactions is to measure the interaction forces between colloids and a fixed surface. The centrifuge force microscope (CFM), a miniaturized microscope inside a centrifuge, is capable of performing hundreds of force measurements in parallel over a wide force range (10 −2 to 10 4 pN), but CFM instruments are not widely used to measure colloid–surface interaction forces. In addition, current CFM instruments rely on brightfield illumination and are not capable of fluorescence microscopy. Here we present a fluorescence CFM (F-CFM) that combines both fluorescence and brightfield microscopy and demonstrate its use for measuring microscale colloidal-surface interaction forces. The F-CFM operates at speeds up to 5000 RPM, 2.5× faster than those previously reported, yielding a 6.25× greater maximum force than previous instruments. A battery-powered GoPro video camera enables real-time viewing of the microscopy video on a mobile device, and frequency analysis of the audio signal correlates centrifuge rotational speed with the video signal. To demonstrate the capability of the F-CFM, we measure the force requiredmore »to detach hundreds of electrostatically stabilized colloidal microspheres attached to a charged glass surface as a function of ionic strength and compare the resulting force distributions with an approximated DLVO theory. The F-CFM will enable microscale force measurements to be correlated with fluorescence imaging in soft and biological systems.« less