Condensed Matter Seminar: "Soft matter physics in the gut"

Wed, 01/31/2018 - 16:00 - 17:00
Sujit S. Datta (Princeton University)

The gut governs digestion and nutrient absorption, is a promising target for drug delivery, and teems with micro-organisms that can have remarkably strong effects on host health. Despite its importance, however, little is known about how the structure and function of the gut are influenced by many of the soft materials that transit through it regularly. I will describe how by combining experiments on mice, biophysical processing and characterization, and microscopy, we find that polymers abundant in the gut — such as secreted mucins, dietary fibers, or administered therapeutics — can alter the structure of the gut and its contents. These alterations could impact how microbes transit through the gut, potentially take up residence within it, and potentially infect it. Surprisingly, we find that many aspects of this complex behavior can be understood in the framework of polymer solution theory. Our results provide a foundation for disentangling the interactions between polymers and the gut. More broadly, our work highlights how physical principles can be used to understand and possibly control how polymers regulate structures in the body.

David Rittenhouse Laboratory, A4