Disputation - Björn Fallqvist

Publicerad 2016-11-16

On the mechanics of actin and intermediate filament networks and their contribution to cellular mechanics

Björn Fallqvist defended his PhD thesis on January 16th 2016. The thesis was titled “On the mechanics of actin and intermediate filament networks and their contribution to cellular mechanics”. The supervisor was Martin Kroon and the faculty opponent was Prof.  Peter McHugh, National University of Galway, Galway.

The mechanical behaviour of cells is essential in ensuring continued physiological function, and deficiencies therein can result in a variety of diseases. Also, altered mechanical response of cells can in certain cases be an indicator of a diseased state, and even actively promoting progression of pathology. In this thesis, methods to model cell and cytoskeletal mechanics are developed and analysed.

In Paper A, a constitutive model for the response of transiently cross-linked actin networks is developed using a continuum framework. A strain energy function is proposed and modified in terms of chemically activated cross-links.

In Paper B, a finite element framework was used to assess the influence of numerous geometrical and material parameters on the response of cross-linked actin networks, quantifying the influence of microstructural properties and cross-link compliance. Also, a micromechanically motivated constitutive model for cross-linked networks in a continuum framework was proposed.

In Paper C, the discrete model is extended to include the stochastic nature of cross-links. The strain rate dependence observed in experiments is suggested to depend partly on this.

In Paper D, the continuum model for cross-linked networks is extended to encompass more composite networks. Favourable comparisons to experiments indicate the interplay between phenomenological evolution laws to predict effects in biopolymer networks.

In Paper E, experimental and computational techniques are used to assess influence of the actin cytoskeleton on the mechanical response of fibroblast cells. The influence of cell shape is assessed, and experimental and computational aspects of cell mechanics are discussed.

In Paper F, the filament-based cytoskeletal model is extended with an active response to predict active force generation.  Importantly, experimentally observed stiffening of cells with applied stress is predicted.

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