Designing better protective gear against severe impacts for civilians and soldiers requires a detailed understanding of how soft tissues in the body actually respond to such impacts, whether from concussions, ballistic attacks, or blast wounds. MIT researchers are developing new synthetic polymer-solvent gels, called tissue simulant gels, which mimic the response of natural tissue.
Biological engineering graduate student Bo Qing is studying the impact of traumatic force on brain tissue from rodents and modeling synthetic substitutes to enable better insight into preventing such injuries. “If we can design a material that mimics this impact response, it would be very helpful to serve as an injury model and use to assess new protective equipment that can minimize this harm,” explains Qing, who works under MIT Associate Professor Krystyn J. Van Vliet.
“We want to study how biological tissues like the brain, heart, and liver respond to impact and then find synthetic mimics that can recapitulate those responses because they will be very helpful for the Army, for example, to devise new protective strategies and understand how injury actually occurs,” Qing says.