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Chemical reaction to mechanical motion towards the physio-chemical model of heart cells.

School of Biological Sciences

About the Project

Living systems are complex, and are based on the basic building blocks of genes, proteins, chemical reactions, and physical forces. Yet, out of this complexity, with remarkable robustness and precision, cells orchestrate the cooperative action of thousands of specific molecular reactions and interactions to carry out mechanical tasks. For example, 100 billion heart cells can synchronise their oscillation to generate a single pulse.

To understand the fundamental principles that govern cooperative processes in living systems, it is of critical importance to develop an understanding of the underlying physio-chemical processes, because living systems are also subject to laws in physical systems. Such inherently non-equilibrium processes suggest approaches for developing biomimetic active materials which can transform chemical energy to mechanical energy. Being actively driven, these materials can exhibit properties such as autonomous motility and self-organised beating.

The aim of this project is to understand the fundamental microscopic mechanism of the transformation from chemical to mechanical reactions, and develop a physio-chemical model to study the mechanism of the synchronisation in relevant biological systems.

We will combine the following three approaches;

1. Perform physical chemical experiments with active gel beads immersed in an electrolyte solution, and characterize the amplitude and frequency of the active gel beads.

2. Develop a hybrid molecular dynamics/Monte Carlo (MD/MC) simulation method to understand the microscopic mechanisms of the interplay between osmotic pressure and dynamical behavior of active gels.

3. Develop the physio-chemical model of relevant biological systems, using the obtained microscopic understanding from 1) and 2).
Such chemo-mechanical systems to convert chemical oscillation of the reaction to mechanical changes in gels can lead to development of smart biomimetic gels for drug transportation and mechanical assistance purposes.

Expected skills:

Good experimental skills in Physical Chemistry/Chemistry/Biology, and preferably but not necessarily some computer programming/simulation skills.

• Applicants should hold or expect to gain a minimum of a 2:1 Bachelor Degree or equivalent in Physical Chemistry, Biomedical Engineering and Statistical Physics or any other relevant fields.

Funding Notes

How to apply:

To apply for this project please submit an application for a PhD in Biomedical Engineering at View Website.

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