Dynamic and Programmable Cellular-Scale Granules Enable Tissue-like Materials

Matter 2020


Living tissues are an integrated, multiscale architecture consisting of dense cellular ensembles and extracellular matrices (ECMs). The cells and ECMs cooperate to enable specialized mechanical properties and dynamic responsiveness. However, the mechanical properties of living tissues are difficult to replicate. A particular challenge is identification of a cell-like synthetic component, which is tightly integrated with its matrix and also responsive to external stimuli. Here, we demonstrate that cellular-scale hydrated starch granules, an underexplored component in materials science, can turn conventional hydrogels into tissue-like materials when composites are formed. By using several synchrotron-based X-ray techniques, we reveal the mechanically induced organization and training dynamics of the starch granules in the hydrogel matrix. These dynamic behaviors enable multiple tissue-like properties such as programmability, anisotropy, strain-stiffening, mechanochemistry, and self-healability.