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BioMechanics and Materials Laboratory

Cellular Modeling and Experiments


 The external mechanical load will firstly cause the mechanical deformation of neurons, and then, when this deformation reaches to a critical point (threshold), it will initiate the chemical/biological response. The chemical/biological response can cause the neuronal function loss-neuronal injury. This process is considered to be the mechanism of the mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) at the cellular level. Understanding the relationship between the neuronal mechanical response and their biological responses is the first important step to understand the mechanism of mTBI.


Guoxin Cao
Dr. Guoxin Cao

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Raman Analysis

(a)(b) ECM patterning by CP, (c)(d) 3D geometry and FEM mesh of the isolated neuron, (e)(f)(g)Control unit , = 10% and = 20% equibiaxial stretch, after 24h.

Raman Analysis of Neuron Injury

 Raman spectroscopy can provide the structural and quantitative information of cell by directly measuring the vibration characteristics of the chemical bonds of the molecules. Each characteristic vibration frequency is corresponding to a specific molecular functional group (protein) inside cell, and the relative intensity of that spectral band can be used to reflect the relative concentration of that particular functional group. Thus, by tracking the Raman spectra history, the transformation of a biochemical reaction can be dynamically monitored.
 In our test, CRS will be used to observe the response of some isolated neurons (selected from the patterned neurons under the different deformation levels) immediately and every 8hours after neuron stretching. By measuring the temporal changes of Raman spectra of isolated deformed cells, we demonstrate a molecular-level assessment of neuron injury in real time without introducing the exogenous reagents.

Renishaw Microscopy and Graph

(left)RENISHAW in Via Confocal Raman Microscopy; (right) Raman spectral of cell on Au coated Si wafer.

Main Studies

  • Build the microscale mechanical model to correlate the mechanical deformation of neurons and their nonlethal injury. The mechanical deformation of uniaxial/equibiaxial stretching is applied on the In Vitro cell model; the cell injury.

  • Understand the neuron mechanical response to the external load by matching the measured deformation field (using Fluorescence microscopy) and the simulated deformation field based on 3D neuronal geometry (using Finite element simulations).

  • Measure the mechanical property of neurons using Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM).