From the cellular level up to the body system level, living organisms present elegant designs to realize the desirable structures, properties and functions. For example, tendons and muscles are tough but soft, owing to highly complex hierarchical structures rarely found in synthetic materials. Our neuromuscular system enables our motion sensing and response with built-in feedback control, presenting superior intelligence also lacking in manmade systems. Gels, as a class of liquid-laden crosslinked polymer networks, not only have tissue-like water-rich porous networks and can also change their volume and physical properties in response to environmental cues. At UCLA He lab, we exploit fundamental material processing-structure-property-function studies of hydrogels and their derivatives, to create (i) ‘bio-like’ structures and properties and (ii) ‘life-like’ intelligence in functional soft materials for applications in robotics, biomedicine, energy and environment. This talk will present how these could be realized by mastering polymer-water interactions. Specifically, using classic chemical physical principles to modulate macromolecule assembly up to complex polymer networks, the fundamental limits in mechanical, diffusion and electrical properties could be broken can be broken to design extreme properties. The enabled soft materials featuring high mechanical toughness, ion/electron conduction, fast stimuli response, and ‘synthetic intelligence’ make possible the next-generation energy-self-sufficient robots, personalized medical implants, as well as futuristic smart wearable electronics and battery-powered flight.
Abstract After rotator cuff tendon tear, marked degeneration of the attached muscle is apparent clinically, with both fibrous and fatty infiltration of the tissue. Our laboratory is working on delivery strategies for biologics, including proteins and cells, that might slow or reverse this degeneration. In particular, our laboratory has focused on “jump-starting” host regenerative processes through use of glycosaminoglycan (GAG)-based biomaterials for release of cytokines to promote the recruitment of pro-healing cell populations, such as pro-resolving macrophages, and mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs), into the muscle. In other work, we have explored priming strategies for MSCs to alter their immunomodulatory properties as a means to reduce inflammation, such as that which occurs in muscle after rotator cuff tendon tear.