The Tissue Biomechanics research targets the morphology, composition and biomechanics of biological tissues, trying to correlate the molecular and ultrastructural behavior with the properties observed at a macroscopic level. The morphological and topological properties of every material strongly affect its mechanical features and behavior, so that structure, composition and mechanical properties are intimately connected. Morpho-mechanics is particularly important in biological tissues, since the relationship between morphological features and mechanical properties has a particular relevance in various fields, including biology, medicine, pathology, tissue engineering, and regenerative medicine. Tissue morpho-mechanics is mostly determined by collagen and its organization, as it is the most abundant structural protein in animals and one of the major building blocks of biological tissues. Collagen is hierarchically organized in various structures showing specific morphological, mechanical and biological properties at the ultrastructural level. In this scenario, it is of paramount importance to use different approaches and methodologies in order to target various scale levels. This is achieved by using both single-point and laser scanning imaging scheme in tandem with various contrast mechanisms, such as fluorescence, fluorescence lifetime, second-harmonic generation (SHG) and Brillouin Light Scattering (BLS), yielding an all-optical non-invasive assessment of tissue morpho-mechanics from the macroscopic level down to the microscopic scale. The methods are applied to a broad variety of samples, ranging from artificial scaffolds to animal and human tissues, in collaboration with national and international experts.
Riccardo Cicchi, Group Leader