Extended Organoid Core Life by Elastomeric Liquid Crystal Tubes In Culture (ECLECTIC)

Principal Investigators: Prof. Jan LAGERWALL and Prof. Jens Christian Schwamborn


Actuators, or artificial muscles, that are soft, that can take on arbitrary shapes and perform complex types of motion, have great potential for applications across a range of fields, from soft robotics to biotechnology, to dynamic architecture and responsive design. However, the options for developing such soft actuators are still severely limited, many designs having limitations in terms of autonomy, a relatively large minimum size (centimeter scale), and in terms of the accessible shapes and actuation modes. A materials class that potentially does not suffer from these limitations is liquid crystal elastomers (LCEs), but they have only recently started to be explored in this context, leaving numerous challenges open. In this project we wish to produce tube-shaped LCE actuators, which are expected to perform a peristaltic pumping motion upon actuation triggered by light exposure or localized heating. Profiting from the expertise in microfluidic production of liquid crystal and liquid crystal elastomer shells in the Experimental Soft Matter Physics group at University of Luxembourg, Physics and Materials Science Research Unit, we will systematically explore variations of the synthesis procedure in order to find an optimum protocol for reproducibly producing tube-shaped LCEs that are also porous. The resulting actuators will then be studied in a collaboration with the group of Jens Christian Schwamborn at the Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biology, as synthetic vasculature for supporting in-vitro growth of organoids in a culture medium. This promising concept of modern biotechnology has potential to revolutionize pharmaceutical research, not least making many animal tests superfluous, but it suffers from the problem of so-called Core Death, where the original cells at the core of the organoid start dying due to lack of nutrient influx and waste product outflux. Our hope is that porous LCE tube actuators acting as peristaltic pumps can prevent these problems from occurring, thereby keeping the full organoid alive and allow it to reach greater overall size.

Connections to other local activities:
– Scalia: interaction liquid crystals and nanoparticles
– Sengupta: liquid crystals and biology
– Sanctuary/Baller: polymer physics/rheology

Connections to other international activities:
Selinger: theory and simulation of liquid crystal elastomer actuation: https://www.kent.edu/physics/profile/robin-selinger

Zentel: liquid crystal elastomer chemistry: https://www.ak-zentel.chemie.uni-mainz.de/prof-dr-r-zentel/



Connections to other international activities: