Using Multiscale Mechanical Modeling to Investigate Skin Responses

Finite-element meshes and representative networks in PC model

Researchers in biological sciences and medicine are using scientific computing in a number of exciting ways. One such is computer modeling of structures and organs of the human body.

The research group of Professor Victor Barocas (Biomedical Engineering) develops computational models of the mechanical behavior of tissues. In a recent paper, Julia Quindlen, Victor Lai, and Professor Barocas discuss a model they have developed of the Pacinian corpuscle (PC), which is a sensory receptor in the skin that helps detect short-term contact and high-frequency vibration. (Ms. Quindlen is a graduate student in the Barocas group; Dr. Lai is a former graduate student and is currently an assistant professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering, UM Duluth.) The PC is located deep within the skin’s dermis and is made up of tissue layers. The authors wanted to test the biomechanics of the PC, specifically how strain concentrates near an indentation site, and whether the PC’s location deep in the dermis contributes to its ability to detect a stimulus over a wide area, but not identify the specific location. The authors developed a multiscale finite-element model to test their hypotheses. The paper was published in the journal PLoS Computational Biology in September 2015 (Julia C. Quindlen, Victor K. Lai, and Victor H. Barocas. 2015. Multiscale mechanical model of the Pacinian corpuscle shows depth and anisotropy contribute to the Receptor’s characteristic response to indentation. PLoS Computational Biology 11, (9) (JAN 1), 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1004370. Ms. Quindlen was a Grand Prize winner at the 2014 MSI Research Exhibition with a poster related to this research. She has also been awarded a 2015-16 Interdisciplinary Doctoral Fellowship.

Image description: Finite-element meshes and representative networks. (A) The isolated PC model was populated with circumferentially aligned Delaunay networks and indented with an indenter of diameter 250 mm. (B) The epidermis and dermis PC models were populated with circumferentially aligned Delaunay networks in the PC elements (red) and transversely isotropic Delaunay networks in the skin elements (gold). Single nodes on the surface of the meshes were indented. Image and description, Julia C. Quindlen, et al., PLoS Comput Biol 11(9), 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1004370 (2015).

posted on January 6, 2016

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