New electromagnetic device could catapult mechanobiology research advances into the clinical arena

A new electromagnetic device could catapult advances in mechanobiology research into the clinical arena

Artist’s impression of the new electromagnetic device showing a tissue sample being tested under tension using the attraction between a steel ball and an electromagnet. Credit: BioHues Digital

A new electromagnetic device that enables high-precision measurements of a wide range of soft biological tissues has established a new standard of precision in the mechanobiology field, researchers say. The method allows the mechanical testing of tissues the size of human biopsy samples, making it particularly relevant for studies of human disease.

The body’s soft tissues exhibit a wide range of mechanical properties, such as stiffness and strength, that are critical to performing their function. For example, the tissues of the gastrointestinal tract are soft to allow the passage and digestion of food, while tendons are relatively stiffer to transfer force from muscle to bone allowing us to move.

The ability to accurately measure the mechanical properties of these tissues, which are subject to changes during developmental processes or due to disease, has profound implications for the fields of biology and medicine. Methods for measuring these characteristics are currently inadequate, and their accuracy and reliability remain limited – until now.

New research involving researchers from the University of Cambridge and the MIT Institute for Medical Engineering and Science (IMES) has resulted in a device that relies on magnetic actuation and optical sensing, thus potentially enabling live imaging of the tissue under an inverted microscope. Thus, insights can be gained about the behavior of the tissue under mechanical forces at both a cellular and molecular level. The results are reported in the journal Scientific Advances.

An electromagnet exerts a pulling force on the tissue sample that is mounted on the device, while an optical system measures the sample’s change in size or shape.

“One of the most critical requirements for mechanical testing of soft biological tissues is the need to mimic the physiological conditions of the biological sample (eg, temperature, nutrients) as closely as possible, in order to keep the tissue alive and preserve its biomechanical properties,” said Dr. Thierry Savin, Associate Professor of Bioengineering, who led the research team.

“Thus we designed a transparent mounting chamber to measure the mechanical properties of tissues – at the millimeter scale – in their native physiological and chemical environment. The result is a more versatile, accurate and robust device that shows high reliability and reproducibility.”

To directly evaluate the performance of their electromagnetic device, the researchers conducted a study on the biomechanics of the mouse esophagus and its constituent layers. The esophagus is the muscular tube connecting the throat with the stomach and it is composed of multiple tissue layers. The researchers used the device to conduct the first biomechanical investigation of each of the three individual layers of mouse esophageal tissue.

Their findings showed that the esophagus behaves as a three-layer composite material similar to those commonly used in several engineering applications. To the knowledge of the researchers, these are the first results obtained from the mechanical properties of each individual layer of the esophagus.

“Our study demonstrated the enhanced reliability of the electromagnetic device, yielding errors in the stress-strain response below 15%—a level of accuracy not seen before,” said Dr. Adrien Hallou, Postdoctoral Fellow at the Wellcome Trust/Cancer Research UK Gurdon. Institute. “We hope that this device will eventually become the new standard in the tissue biomechanics field, providing a standardized dataset for the characterization of mouse and human soft tissue mechanics across the board.”

Luca Rosalia, Ph.D. candidate at IMES, added, “By analyzing the biomechanics of healthy tissues and their changes as they occur during disease, our device could eventually be used to identify changes in tissue properties that are of diagnostic importance, therefore becoming a valuable tool to inform clinical decisions. .”

More information:
Luca Rosalia et al, A magnetically actuated, optically sensed strain testing method for mechanical characterization of soft biological tissues, Scientific Advances (2023). DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.ade2522

Provided by University of Cambridge

Quote: New electromagnetic device could catapult mechanobiology research advances into the clinical arena (2023, January 18) retrieved on January 18, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-01-electromagnetic-device-catapult-mechanobiology-advances .html

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