Mechanobiology at high strain rates

Traumatic high strain rate loading of the human body is common (5 road traffic deaths, 61 seriously injured every day, UK 1) and brings high personal and societal costs – £288M for Afghanistan UK veterans’ health care 2). Tissue healing is a complex and highly coordinated response to injury, in which multiple signals between cells at a local and at organ level are required to produce a functional and timely repair. In musculoskeletal tissues where mechanical function is key, mechanical signals play a critical role in providing an efficient, effective healing process3. The synergy of mechanical and biological factors is becoming a central paradigm for understanding physiological processes including healing, with claims that faulty mechanosensation is the root cause of a host of serious diseases 4

Mechanistic understanding is lacking at all stages of the physiological response to trauma:

  1. The mechanical and physical response of the organised microstructural elements in tissue (protein fibrils, cell components)
  2. The biological sequellae of the physical response
  3. The link to local and systemic physiological derangement
  4. The potential for pre-hospital interventions to mitigate 
  5. The potential to harness mechanical signals to accelerate and increase quality of tissue healing

Oxford Mechanobiology has developed a number of in vitro models for cell and tissue mechanobiology 13 14. Currently we are building functional organ-on-a-chip models suitable for modelling traumatic loading together with high strain rate loading facilities benefitting from high speed in situ imaging methods.


1. Department for Transport UG. Reported road casualties in Great Britain, 2016.

2. Edwards DS et al Clin Orthop 2015;473:2848.

13. Tucker RP et al J R Soc Interface 2014;11:20140330.

14. Adekanmbi I et al Med Eng Phys 2013;35:205.

Published by marktoxford

Associate Professor in Engineering Science, University of Oxford

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