Collagen is the main structural and load-bearing element of various connective tissues, where it forms the extracellular matrix that supports cells. It has long been known that collagenous tissues exhibit a highly nonlinear stress–strain relationship, although the origins of this nonlinearity remain unknown. Here, we show that the nonlinear stiffening of reconstituted type I collagen networks is controlled by the applied stress and that the network stiffness becomes surprisingly insensitive to network concentration. We demonstrate how a simple model for networks of elastic fibers can quantitatively account for the mechanics of reconstituted collagen networks. Our model points to the important role of normal stresses in determining the nonlinear shear elastic response, which can explain the approximate exponential relationship between stress and strain reported for collagenous tissues. This further suggests principles for the design of synthetic fiber networks with collagen-like properties, as well as a mechanism for the control of the mechanics of such networks.
Amorphous nanoparticles (a-NPs) have physicochemical properties distinctly different from those of the corresponding bulk crystals; for example, their solubility is much higher. However, many materials have a high propensity to crystallize and are difficult to formulate in an amorphous structure without stabilizers. We fabricated a microfluidic nebulator that can produce amorphous NPs from a wide range of materials, even including pure table salt (NaCl). By using supersonic air flow, the nebulator produces drops that are so small that they dry before crystal nuclei can form. The small size of the resulting spray-dried a-NPs limits the probability of crystal nucleation in any given particle during storage. The kinetic stability of the a-NPs—on the order of months—is advantageous for hydrophobic drug molecules.
The importance of single-cell level data is increasingly appreciated, and significant advances in this direction have been made in recent years. Common to these technologies is the need to physically segregate individual cells into containers, such as wells or chambers of a micro-fluidics chip. High-throughput Single-Cell Labeling (Hi-SCL) in drops is a novel method that uses drop-based libraries of oligonucleotide barcodes to index individual cells in a population. The use of drops as containers, and a microfluidics platform to manipulate them en-masse, yields a highly scalable methodological framework. Once tagged, labeled molecules from different cells may be mixed without losing the cell-of-origin information. Here we demonstrate an application of the method for generating RNA-sequencing data for multiple individual cells within a population. Barcoded oligonucleotides are used to prime cDNA synthesis within drops. Barcoded cDNAs are then combined and subjected to second generation sequencing. The data are deconvoluted based on the barcodes, yielding single-cell mRNA expression data. In a proof-of-concept set of experiments we show that this method yields data comparable to other existing methods, but with unique potential for assaying very large numbers of cells.