Hydrogels are flexible materials composed of a three-dimensional cross-linked network of hydrophilic polymers and water. In addition to jelly and agar, cells, extracellular matrix (ECM), and biological tissues in our body can also be called gels in a broad sense. Many studies have shown that artificially synthesized hydrogels and proteins in the body are driven by the same mechanism. Hydrogels can be used as a simplified model of living organisms.
In our laboratory, we focus on the surface/interface of hydrogels. The interface between different cells and tissues in vivo is a special area where specific proteins are locally produced and somatic stem cells are localized. It is also known that the dynamism of morphogenesis in living organisms can be simulated by assuming that surface tension acts at the cell-cell interface. By understanding and controlling the physicochemical phenomena occurring at the surface/interface of hydrogels, we would like to elucidate unknown biological phenomena, realize engineering mimicry, and create functional soft materials that will contribute to next-generation medical and energy-related fields. This is the dream that we are pursuing in our research. Specifically, We are conducting basic research on the adhesion, diffusion, rheology, and fluctuation of hydrogel surfaces, aiming to develop functional soft materials such as medical tape (dressing) materials and cell culture materials, as well as to understand the basic mechanism of life through constitutive research.
The basic technology for all the research conducted in our laboratory is polymeric material synthesis. When evaluating the structure and physical properties of the materials, we collaborate with researchers in various different fields. Because hydrogel surfaces/interfaces contain water and are flexible, conventional evaluation methods used in surface science are often inapplicable, and it is essential to develop new methods and original developments in order to conduct research.
Our research is a challenge to unexplored areas that can be tackled only by integrating chemistry, physics, mathematical science, biology, and medicine.
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