The Uyeno Lab

Research Philosophy, Projects, & Publications

Fields of Research

   A beloved biomechanics mentor of mine once told me that functional morphology is an intrinsically integrative science. This is because if you're trying to figure out how a snail crawls or how a insect flies, you can't separate the anatomy from the physiology. They're inextricably interlinked! He said it better though: Form without function is a corpse and function without form is a ghost. I figure that neural control is such an important aspect of function that it deserves it's own goulish addition: Form and function without control is a zombie! As such, in this lab, we try and consider all three aspects in research projects that we undertake.

   Research methods associated with morphological descriptions include gross dissections of fresh and preserved tissues, serial microtomy and customized histological staining protocols that differentiate between many soft tissue types, microscopy (light, EM and X-ray), and three-dimensional reconstructions using polygon modeling and CAD software.

   In the UyenoBioMech lab, we are set up to perform multichannel finewire electromyography to test hypotheses of muscle function. When in vivo experiments are called for, we have a modular temperature controlled cold saltwater tank system and a large Faraday cage setup that we use. When we don't have some special motion sensor, or light control, or data logger, we also often build our own instrumentation based on the Arduino or PicAxe microprocessor platforms. We are currently attempting to acquire the ability to perform high speed videography to recover kinematic data in the lab.

   One exciting tool that we use in teasing apart aspects of control involves simulation. This can be the virtual simulation of control using inverse kinematics to animate realistic models or physical simulations using rapid prototyped or robotic models of the structures in question.

Current Research Projects (2011-2012)

   Listed below are abstracts describing specific research projects being currently undertaken by the lab members.

Joints and anchors in hagfish
Rasheeda Rickman, Bri Taylor, Andrew Clark & Theodore Uyeno
   This project represents a collaboration between the UyenoBioMech lab and the Clark lab of the College of Charleston. We are investigating the contribution of soft tissues arranged as muscle articulations to the function of hagfish toothplates using histology and 3D reconstructions.

Dicondylar crab joints
Theodore Uyeno & David Lee
   Crab joints represent an extremely constrained joint morphology that can be very closely modeled using X-ray imaging. In collaboration with the Lee lab at UNLV, we are developing an animated simulation of crab leg movement using actual crab carapace geometry and kinematics. This a foundational work upon which an accurate simulation of dynamics and energetics will later rest.

Octopus buccal mass neuroanatomy
Theodore Uyeno
   Because we know a good deal about the form and function of the octopus buccal mass, and because it is controlled by an "onboard" ganglion, it represents a good model upon which to begin describing the innervation of a multifunctional joint type known as a "muscle articulation".

Muscle material properties
Kiisa Nishikawa, the Nishikawa lab, & Theodore Uyeno
   The giant protein Titin represents an important, but less well understood component of the sarcomere. We hypothesize that titin functions as an elastic element that greatly boosts the efficiency of muscle by storing energy. Dr. Nishikawa, Dr. Yeo, and I are developing simulations of this molecular basis of muscle elasticity and using what we've learned to develop more efficient linear actuating motors.

Learning from squid hearts to help heal arterial disease
Ted Uyeno, Duane Barbano, & Kiisa Nishikawa
   Peripheral Arterial Disease is debilitating. Caused by reduced blood flow through peripheral arteries, surgical treatment may involve implanting synthetic vascular grafts. Because these rigid implants tend to buckle and plug with clots, new designs are of great value. Our goal is to develop novel design principles using a biologically inspired approach: as active cephalopods evolved efficient, closed-circuit, and high-pressure circulatory systems with elastic arteries and accessory hearts, from open and low-pressure ancestral precursors, biomechanical analyses may inspire useful structural designs.

List of selected publications