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Non contact measurement of mechanical properties of living tissues at microscale

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In living organism, the exra-cellular matrix (ECM) has a significant role in questions such as cell adhesion, cell-to-cell communication and differentiation. Mechanical properties and mechanical state of ECM are important aspects of these ECM roles. To understand how the viscoelastic behavior of ECM enters biological activity of living tissue, it must be probed at different spatial scales and at different time scales. This exploration is the heart of this project. We propose to investigate the micro- and nano-scale mechanical response of extracellular matrix (ECM) using a homemade Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM).

The project will be developed in collaboration with two Grenoble labs active in cell biophysics, biomechanics (LiPhy UJF/CNRS) and biomaterials (LMGP G-INP/CNRS). We have developed a specific instrumentation derived from AFM, in close collaboration with the Near-Field group of the Neel Institute, the Surface Science Lab at synchrotron ESRF, and the University of Lisbon. Using it, we measure the visco-elastic properties of soft materials in liquid. Contact measurements however require to separate mechanical effects from soft surface interactions. At the LiPhy we have developed a way to measure biological film visco-elasti modulii at nanoscale without direct contact, thus avoiding surface effects.

Interested candidate has a background in physics and has a real taste for experimental work. Master student is expected to be able to operate the experiment alone during internship. PhD student is expected to rapidly contribute to future development of the instrument. Analysis of instrumentation and results requires an interest for theory. This research requires advanced physics and advanced biology, interest for an interdisciplinary approach and for involved collaborative work is also needed.

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Extra cellular matrix