Loren Jiang Rose Hills
Repulsive-force electrostatic actuators for low-cost, scalable mechanical stimulation of cell cultures
I plan to develop a new meso-scale device for the mechanical stimulation of cell cultures using repulsive-force electrostatic actuators that I have helped fabricate and characterize in prior work. Cells live within a dynamic micromechanical environment, sensing and adapting to external mechanical forces, including tension, compression, fluid shear, and hydrostatic pressure. Basic cellular functions like proliferation and differentiation, as well as many diseases including osteoporosis and atherosclerosis, have been associated with these types of mechanical cues. Because of the complexity of in vivo models, a wide variety of in vitro methodologies have been employed to stimulate cell cultures. Conventional pneumatic and mechanical stimulation systems rely on bulky motors or pumps that limit design scalability. In contrast, RFAs have simple operation, generating forces and displacements (proportional to applied input voltages) at magnitudes within biologically relevant regimes. Moreover, RFAs are easily fabricated and may be designed in scalable biocompatible configurations, which is promising for cell mechanobiology research.