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Thursday, September 06, 2012 - Undergraduate Vanessa Punal publishes in Biomechanics and Modeling in Mechanobiology
Former Oakland University undergraduate physics major Vanessa Punal has published a paper in the September 2012 issue of the journal Biomechanics and Modeling in Mechanobiology. The article “A Perturbation Solution of the Mechanical Bidomain Model” (Volume 11, Pages 995-1000) is based on her research while at OU. During her undergraduate career, Punal was awarded the William A. Breitmoser Jr. Scholarship in Physics in July 2011, was granted a University of Nebraska-Lincoln WoPHY Travel Scholarship, and was supported in part by a Provost’s Undergraduate Research Award. Punal worked with CBR member Brad Roth, of the Department of Physics, whose research is supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health. This fall she became a first year graduate student in a neuroscience program at Duke University.

The introduction of Punal’s paper is reproduced below (references removed).
The mechanical behavior of cardiac tissue has been studied for decades. Nevertheless, the field remains vibrant because of new concepts such as mechanotransduction and novel experimental applications such as tissue engineering. Many of these issues concern the mechanical coupling of the intracellular and extracellular spaces. For instance, interactions between cells and the surrounding extracellular matrix occur in part through integrin proteins, which are thought to influence aspects of cellular function. In cardiac tissue, myocytes interact with the extracellular matrix mechanically, thereby regulating the remodeling of the tissue and cell structure— this is a type of mechanotransduction. Engineered cardiac tissue is becoming increasingly important in clinical applications and has been proposed as a tool to study cardiac ischemia. In particular, abnormal behavior at the border zone between ischemic and non-ischemic tissue can modulate tissue stress and strain, which could trigger remodeling. The common theme among these various studies is a focus on the mechanical interaction between the intracellular and extracellular spaces. In order to understand these phenomena better, new theoretical models that highlight this interaction are required.

Puwal and Roth derived a mechanical bidomain model for cardiac tissue... The bidomain model represents the tissue’s intracellular and extracellular spaces individually as macroscopic continua and accounts for the coupling between the spaces with a spring constant…The analysis conducted by Puwal and Roth looked at simple examples, with displacements in one dimension. … Our goal, in comparison, is to look at a more complicated two dimensional example that better illustrates the implications of the model but nevertheless is simple enough to solve analytically.