“May the force be with you”: 14th Samuel Haughton lecture

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This paper presents the 14th Samuel Haughton lecture delivered on the 26th of January 2008. The lecture began by describing Haughton's research on animal mechanics. Haughton opposed Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection using the argument that the skeleton obeys the ‘principle of least action' and therefore must have been designed with that principle in mind. In the course of his research he dissected many animals, including albatrosses, cassowaries, llamas, tigers, jackals and jaguars. He took anatomical measurements and did calculations to prove that muscle attachment sites were optimally located. The relationship between optimality and evolution continues to be studied. Computer simulations show optimality is difficult to achieve. This is because, even if optimality could be defined, the gene recombinations required to evolve an optimal phenotype may not exist. The drive towards optimality occurs under gravitational forces. Simulations to predict mechano-regulation of tissue differentiation and remodelling have been developed and tested. They have been used to design biomechanically optimized scaffolds for regenerative medicine and to identify the mechanoregularory mechanisms in osteoporosis. It is proposed that an important development in bioengineering will be the discovery of algorithms that can be used for the prediction of mechano-responsiveness in biological tissues.

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