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  1. Abstract

    The development and understanding of antifreezing hydrogels are crucial both in principle and practice for the design and delivery of new materials. The current antifreezing mechanisms in hydrogels are almost exclusively derived from their incorporation of antifreezing additives, rather than from the inherent properties of the polymers themselves. Moreover, developing a computational model for the independent yet interconnected double-network (DN) structures in hydrogels has proven to be an exceptionally difficult task. Here, we develop a multiscale simulation platform, integrating ‘random walk reactive polymerization’ (RWRP) with molecular dynamics (MD) simulations, to computationally construct a physically-chemically linked PVA/PHEAA DN hydrogels from monomers that mimic a radical polymerization and to investigate water structures, dynamics, and interactions confined in PVA/PHEAA hydrogels with various water contents and temperatures, aiming to uncover antifreezing mechanism at atomic levels. Collective simulation results indicate that the antifreezing property of PVA/PHEAA hydrogels arises from a combination of intrinsic, strong water-binding networks and crosslinkers and tightly crosslinked and interpenetrating double-network structures, both of which enhance polymer-water interactions for competitively inhibiting ice nucleation and growth. These computational findings provide atomic-level insights into the interplay between polymers and water molecules in hydrogels, which may determine their resistance to freezing.

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  2. Free, publicly-accessible full text available October 1, 2024
  3. Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 1, 2024
  4. This study investigates the effect on varying flow rates and bubble sizes on gas–liquid flow through porous media in a horizontal microchannel. A simple bubble generation system was set up to generate bubbles with controllable sizes and frequencies, which directly flowed into microfluidic channels packed with different sizes of glass beads. Bubble flow was visualized using a high-speed camera and analyzed to obtain the change in liquid holdup. Pressure data were measured for estimation of hydraulic conductivity. The bubble displacement pattern in the porous media was viscous fingering based on capillary numbers and visual observation. Larger bubbles resulted in lower normalized frequency of the bubble breakthrough by 20 to 60 percent. Increasing the flow rate increased the change in apparent liquid holdup during bubble breakthrough. Larger bubbles and lower flow rate reduced the relative permeability of each channel by 50 to 57 percent and 30 to 64 percent, respectively.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 1, 2024
  5. Amyloid formation and microbial infection are the two common pathological causes of neurogenerative diseases, including Alzheimer's disease (AD), type II diabetes (T2D), and medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC). While significant efforts have been made to develop different prevention strategies and preclinical hits for these diseases, conventional design strategies of amyloid inhibitors are mostly limited to either a single prevention mechanism (amyloid cascade vs. microbial infection) or a single amyloid protein (Aβ, hIAPP, or hCT), which has prevented the launch of any successful drug on the market. Here, we propose and demonstrate a new “anti-amyloid and anti-bacteria” strategy to repurpose two intestinal defensins, human α-defensin 6 (HD-6) and human β-defensin 1 (HBD-1), as multiple-target, dual-function, amyloid inhibitors. Both HD-6 and HBD-1 can cross-seed with three amyloid peptides, Aβ (associated with AD), hIAPP (associated with T2D), and hCT (associated with MTC), to prevent their aggregation towards amyloid fibrils from monomers and oligomers, rescue SH-SY5Y and RIN-m5F cells from amyloid-induced cytotoxicity, and retain their original antimicrobial activity against four common bacterial strains at sub-stoichiometric concentrations. Such sequence-independent anti-amyloid and anti-bacterial functions of intestinal defensins mainly stem from their cross-interactions with amyloid proteins through amyloid-like mimicry of β-sheet associations. In a broader view, this work provides a new out-of-the-box thinking to search and repurpose a huge source of antimicrobial peptides as amyloid inhibitors, allowing the blocking of the two interlinked pathological pathways and bidirectional communication between the central nervous system and intestines via the gut–brain axis associated with neurodegenerative diseases. 
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