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by Keyword: Micromechanics


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Jorba, I., Beltrán, G., Falcones, B., Suki, B., Farré, R., García-Aznar, J. M., Navajas, D., (2019). Nonlinear elasticity of the lung extracellular microenvironment is regulated by macroscale tissue strain Acta Biomaterialia 92, 265-276

The extracellular matrix (ECM) of the lung provides physical support and key mechanical signals to pulmonary cells. Although lung ECM is continuously subjected to different stretch levels, detailed mechanics of the ECM at the scale of the cell is poorly understood. Here, we developed a new polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) chip to probe nonlinear mechanics of tissue samples with atomic force microscopy (AFM). Using this chip, we performed AFM measurements in decellularized rat lung slices at controlled stretch levels. The AFM revealed highly nonlinear ECM elasticity with the microscale stiffness increasing with tissue strain. To correlate micro- and macroscale ECM mechanics, we also assessed macromechanics of decellularized rat lung strips under uniaxial tensile testing. The lung strips exhibited exponential macromechanical behavior but with stiffness values one order of magnitude lower than at the microscale. To interpret the relationship between micro- and macromechanical properties, we carried out a finite element (FE) analysis which revealed that the stiffness of the alveolar cell microenvironment is regulated by the global strain of the lung scaffold. The FE modeling also indicates that the scale dependence of stiffness is mainly due to the porous architecture of the lung parenchyma. We conclude that changes in tissue strain during breathing result in marked changes in the ECM stiffness sensed by alveolar cells providing tissue-specific mechanical signals to the cells. Statement of Significance: The micromechanical properties of the extracellular matrix (ECM) are a major determinant of cell behavior. The ECM is exposed to mechanical stretching in the lung and other organs during physiological function. Therefore, a thorough knowledge of the nonlinear micromechanical properties of the ECM at the length scale that cells probe is required to advance our understanding of cell-matrix interplay. We designed a novel PDMS chip to perform atomic force microscopy measurements of ECM micromechanics on decellularized rat lung slices at different macroscopic strain levels. For the first time, our results reveal that the microscale stiffness of lung ECM markedly increases with macroscopic tissue strain. Therefore, changes in tissue strain during breathing result in variations in ECM stiffness providing tissue-specific mechanical signals to lung cells.

Keywords: AFM, ECM micromechanics, Multiscale lung mechanics, Tensile testing


Blanchard, R., Morin, C., Malandrino, A., Vella, A., Sant, Z., Hellmich, C., (2016). Patient-specific fracture risk assessment of vertebrae: A multiscale approach coupling X-ray physics and continuum micromechanics International Journal for Numerical Methods in Biomedical Engineering , 32, (9), e02760

Summary: While in clinical settings, bone mineral density measured by computed tomography (CT) remains the key indicator for bone fracture risk, there is an ongoing quest for more engineering mechanics-based approaches for safety analyses of the skeleton. This calls for determination of suitable material properties from respective CT data, where the traditional approach consists of regression analyses between attenuation-related grey values and mechanical properties. We here present a physics-oriented approach, considering that elasticity and strength of bone tissue originate from the material microstructure and the mechanical properties of its elementary components. Firstly, we reconstruct the linear relation between the clinically accessible grey values making up a CT, and the X-ray attenuation coefficients quantifying the intensity losses from which the image is actually reconstructed. Therefore, we combine X-ray attenuation averaging at different length scales and over different tissues, with recently identified 'universal' composition characteristics of the latter. This gives access to both the normally non-disclosed X-ray energy employed in the CT-device and to in vivo patient-specific and location-specific bone composition variables, such as voxel-specific mass density, as well as collagen and mineral contents. The latter feed an experimentally validated multiscale elastoplastic model based on the hierarchical organization of bone. Corresponding elasticity maps across the organ enter a finite element simulation of a typical load case, and the resulting stress states are increased in a proportional fashion, so as to check the safety against ultimate material failure. In the young patient investigated, even normal physiological loading is probable to already imply plastic events associated with the hydrated mineral crystals in the bone ultrastructure, while the safety factor against failure is still as high as five.

Keywords: Bone, Bone mass density, Continuum micromechanics, Elastoplasticity, Spine, Strength, X-ray physics


Malandrino, A., Fritsch, A., Lahayne, O., Kropik, K., Redl, H., Noailly, J., Lacroix, D., Hellmich, C., (2012). Anisotropic tissue elasticity in human lumbar vertebra, by means of a coupled ultrasound-micromechanics approach Materials Letters , 78, 154-158

The extremely fine structure of vertebral cortex challenges reliable determination of the tissue's anisotropic elasticity, which is important for the spine's load carrying patterns often causing pain in patients. As a potential remedy, we here propose a combined experimental (ultrasonic) and modeling (micromechanics) approach. Longitudinal acoustic waves are sent in longitudinal (superior-inferior, axial) as well as transverse (circumferential) direction through millimeter-sized samples containing this vertebral cortex, and corresponding wave velocities agree very well with recently identified 'universal' compositional and acoustic characteristics (J Theor Biol 287:115, 2011), which are valid for a large data base comprising different bones from different species and different organs. This provides evidence that the 'universal' organization patterns inherent to all the bone tissues of the aforementioned data base also hold for vertebral bone. Consequently, an experimentally validated model covering the mechanical effects of this organization patterns (J Theor Biol 244:597, 2007, J Theor Biol 260:230, 2009) gives access to the complete elasticity tensor of human lumbar vertebral bone tissue, as a valuable input for structural analyses aiming at patient-specific fracture risk assessment, e.g. based on the Finite Element Method.

Keywords: Human vertebra, Micromechanics, Tissue elasticity, Ultrasonics