Quantify mechanics of developing tissue

How do our life science instruments enable mechanobiology researchers? Read below the story of one of our first customers and good partner Theo Smit, Professor of Translational Regenerative Medicine at the Amsterdam Medical Center in the Netherlands.


Prof. Dr. Theo Smit

“The focus of my research is on mechanobiology of development and disease. The basic idea in this field is that cells are sensitive to their mechanical environment and are able to react to both the stresses applied and the stiffness of the surrounding matrix. The Piuma nanoindenter developed by Optics11 allows accurate stiffness measurements which were not possible before because of the low stiffness or the size of the samples to be measured. We use the Piuma in a variety of projects. Most straight-forward is the assessment of the stiffness of ultrasoft hydrogels that we use for tissue engineering applications. These measurements are relatively quick and can easily be done by our students after minimal instructions. We also measure biopsies from the pelvic floor in case of pelvic organ prolapse and established that it is stiffer than tissue from health controls. In tissue engineering experiments with scaffolds and stem cells, we use the Piuma to assess the stiffness of the newly deposited matrix as a function of time. This is possible because testing can be done with the samples submerged in medium, and culturing can be continued.”


Indentation of somites in a chick embryo.


“More challenging is the measurement of the heterogeneous properties of the developing chick embryo, where stiffness increases in time and decreases from head to tail. With the Piuma we were able to map the stiffness of the chick embryo and visualise the segmentation of the spinal axis into spherical structures called somites. On a different scale, we were able to measure the properties of the nucleus pulposus of the invertebral disc in situ, through a little hole in the annulus fibrosus. This recently published study showed that the properties of the nucleus under confined conditions are different than when the tissue was taken out of the disc and measured without pressure. Such measurements are only possible with small-sized transducers that can penetrate the sample without damaging the entire structure. The Piuma opens up a new world of possibilities for this field of research.”

LinkedIn page of Theo Smit: Theo Smit