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Collagen nanomechanics in articular cartilage

Principal investigator: Himadri GUPTA
Co-investigator(s): Martin KNIGHT
Funding source(s): Institute of Bioengineering EPSRC PhD Studentship
 Start: 07-10-2013  /  End: 06-10-2017
Directly incurred staff: Sheetal Inamdar

Determining the depth-dependent relationship between the mechanical behaviour and the composition and structure of articular cartilage is crucial in understanding the changes that develop during osteoarthritic degradation. Currently, little is known as to how the networks of collagen fibrils contribute to the tissue’s mechanics, with the fibrils acting as the structural framework of the tissue. Furthermore, there is evidence that has been developed in Knight’s group that would suggest there may be a link between primary cilia dysfunction, an organelle found on eukaryotic cells that regulate many complex signalling pathways, and mechanical changes in the microenvironment.

By using high brilliance synchrotron x-ray diffraction, in situ experiments allow the fibrillar network to be probed for various different parameters such as fibril strain, fibril orientation and fibrillar disorganisation to potentially build a multi-scale model. This information will allow us to understand how changes to primary cilia in terms of structure and function may be influencing the nanoscale mechanics of the tissue, and therefore allow us to predict and understand the mechanisms that lead to changes in tissue mechanics in osteoarthritis.

This studentship is focussed on characterising the nanoscale deformations in healthy cartilage and measuring the changes that occur with manipulation of primary cilia as well as tissue composition, by using small angle x-ray scattering (SAXS) combined with macro-scale mechanics.