The calls magnetoactive polymers they are revolutionizing the fields of solid mechanics and materials science. These compounds consist of a polymeric matrix (an elastomer) that contains Magnetic particles (from iron, for example) that react mechanically and change shape and volume.
“The idea is that an external magnetic field induces internal forces in this material in such a way that mechanical properties are modified, such as rigidity, or even changes in shape and volume occur that can interact with certain cellular systems”, explains the engineer Daniel Garcia Gonzalez from the Carlos III University of Madrid (UC3M).
A theoretical guide to magnetoactive polymers that could be applied to stimulate epithelial wound healing is provided.
García and other researchers from this university have developed a model that provides a theoretical guide for magnetoactive structural systems that could be applied to stimulate the healing of epithelial wounds, as published in the journal Composites Part B: Engineering. Specifically, they have analyzed how the properties of the matrix and the fraction of the particles influence the mechanical response of magnetoactive polymers.
According to the authors, if these processes can be controlled, other engineering applications could be developed, such as soft robots that could interact with the body or a new generation of artificial muscles.
To explain the potential of this technology, García uses this simile: “Imagine a person who is on the beach and wants to move quickly. The sand on the ground (the mechanical environment) makes it a bit more difficult for you to move forward than if you were on asphalt or a running track. Similarly, when a cell is on a substrate that is too soft, it will cost more to move. On the other hand, if we are able to modify these substrates and create this athletics track for the cells, we are going to make all these processes develop in a much more efficient way ”.
Within the field of magnetoactive polymers, the authors lead the European project 4D-BIOMAP (Biomechanical Stimulation based on 4D Printed Magneto-Active Polymer), which develops bio-magneto-mechanical methodologies to simulate and govern processes such as cell migration and proliferation, the body’s electrophysiological response and the evolution of soft tissue pathologies, and in the longer term, generating artificial muscles and nanorobots for the targeted administration of drugs.
In the framework of a European project, a new generation of artificial muscles and nanorobots for the targeted administration of medicines will be developed in the long term.
“The overall idea of this project is to reach influence different biological processes at the cellular level (such as wound healing, brain synapses or responses of the nervous system), which will allow the development of certain engineering applications that allow us to control them ”, explains the head of 4D-BIOMAP, Daniel Garcia Gonzalez from UC3M.
This project, funded with 1.5 million euros with the help of an ERC Starting Grant from the European Research Council, involves knowledge of solid mechanics, magnetism and bioengineering, as well as combining computational, experimental and theoretical methodologies.
D. García-González. “Influence of elastomeric matrix and particle volume fraction on the mechanical response of magneto-active polymers”. Composites Part B: Engineering, 2021.
Rights: Creative Commons.