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BIOREGOS 2: Elastomers and human tissue

Published on February 8, 2016 Updated on February 28, 2024
Centrale Nantes researchers Erwan Verron and Bertrand Huneau, both from the MPTC team (Materials, Processes and Composite Technology) of the Research Institute of Civil Engineering and Mechanics, enjoy a successful collaboration on the behaviour of elastomers (rubber). The former focuses on modelling the behaviour of these materials whilst the latter’s interest lies in developing innovative experiments.
This expertise in elastomers can be transferred to biology and usefully applied in the health sector since many types of human tissue share the same behavioural characteristics as elastomers.

Background to the project

Following on from the Bioregos 1 project (Biomaterials and osteoarticular regeneration), the Pays de la Loire Region funded Bioregos 2 from 2011 to 2014. One of the goals of this vast project was to continue the research work into bone fragility and lumbago in order to propose regenerative medicine techniques for intervertebral discs.

LIOAD - a laboratory of the University of Nantes and INSERM (National Institute of Health and Medical Research) dealing with osteoarticular and dental engineering - joined forces with the Centrale Nantes researchers recognised for their competence in mechanical engineering of highly deformable materials. The objective was to collaborate on modelling the behaviour of the intervertebral disc and of hydrogels used as replacement material. Hydrogels can for example host the cells that enable regeneration of part of the disc affected by ageing and the cause of back pain.

Tissue engineering

"The intervertebral disc (IVD) is the anatomical structure that joins two consecutive vertebrae. It consists in three main parts: the central Nucleus pulposus (NP), the surrounding Annulus fibrosus and the cartilaginous endplates. Its role is mainly to ensure flexibility of the spine. However, due to ageing or pathological conditions, the NP may degenerate causing an alteration of its mechanical properties. In the context of tissue engineering, hydrogels (biomaterials made of crosslinked polymer chains and water) are good candidates for replacing the degraded NP", explained Violette Brulliard in her 2014 PhD thesis* at Centrale Nantes (supervised by Steven Le Corre, now at Polytech' Nantes, and Erwan Verron).

This is where the expertise of the Centrale Nantes researchers comes in. They developed constitutive equations for the materials in question and integrated them into numerical simulation tools. This work made it possible to simulate the behaviour of the intervertebral disc during human body movements and to define the properties of the hydrogels that could be used as replacement material.

The project came to an end in 2014. Research avenues remain open and have so far contributed to opening the dialogue between engineers, doctors and biologists. There is a bright future ahead for closer ties between engineering science and biology.

*Thesis available to read online in French: tel.archives-ouvertes.fr/document

Published on February 8, 2016 Updated on February 28, 2024