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    Cellular responses to beating hydrogels to investigate mechanotransduction
    ([London] : Nature Publishing Group UK, 2019) Chandorkar, Yashoda; Castro Nava, Arturo; Schweizerhof, Sjören; Van Dongen, Marcel; Haraszti, Tamás; Köhler, Jens; Zhang, Hang; Windoffer, Reinhard; Mourran, Ahmed; Möller, Martin; De Laporte, Laura
    Cells feel the forces exerted on them by the surrounding extracellular matrix (ECM) environment and respond to them. While many cell fate processes are dictated by these forces, which are highly synchronized in space and time, abnormal force transduction is implicated in the progression of many diseases (muscular dystrophy, cancer). However, material platforms that enable transient, cyclic forces in vitro to recreate an in vivo-like scenario remain a challenge. Here, we report a hydrogel system that rapidly beats (actuates) with spatio-temporal control using a near infra-red light trigger. Small, user-defined mechanical forces (~nN) are exerted on cells growing on the hydrogel surface at frequencies up to 10 Hz, revealing insights into the effect of actuation on cell migration and the kinetics of reversible nuclear translocation of the mechanosensor protein myocardin related transcription factor A, depending on the actuation amplitude, duration and frequency.
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    Exploring the colloid-to-polymer transition for ultra-low crosslinked microgels from three to two dimensions
    ([London] : Nature Publishing Group UK, 2019) Scotti, A.; Bochenek, S.; Brugnoni, M.; Fernandez-Rodriguez, M.A.; Schulte, M.F.; Houston, J.E.; Gelissen, A.P.H.; Potemkin, I.I.; Isa, L.; Richtering, W.
    Microgels are solvent-swollen nano- and microparticles that show prevalent colloidal-like behavior despite their polymeric nature. Here we study ultra-low crosslinked poly(N-isopropylacrylamide) microgels (ULC), which can behave like colloids or flexible polymers depending on dimensionality, compression or other external stimuli. Small-angle neutron scattering shows that the structure of the ULC microgels in bulk aqueous solution is characterized by a density profile that decays smoothly from the center to a fuzzy surface. Their phase behavior and rheological properties are those of soft colloids. However, when these microgels are confined at an oil-water interface, their behavior resembles that of flexible macromolecules. Once monolayers of ultra-low crosslinked microgels are compressed, deposited on solid substrate and studied with atomic-force microscopy, a concentration-dependent topography is observed. Depending on the compression, these microgels can behave as flexible polymers, covering the substrate with a uniform film, or as colloidal microgels leading to a monolayer of particles.