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J Biomech Eng. 2013 Dec;135(12):121008. doi: 10.1115/1.4025464.

Impact of weightlessness on cardiac shape and left ventricular stress/strain distributions.


In this paper, a finite element model of the heart is developed to investigate the impact of different gravitational loadings of Earth, Mars, Moon, and microgravity on the cardiac shape and strain/stress distributions in the left ventricle. The finite element model is based on realistic 3D heart geometry, detailed fiber/sheet micro-architecture, and a validated orthotropic cardiac tissue model and constitutive relationship that capture the passive behavior of the heart at end-diastole. The model predicts the trend and magnitude of cardiac shape change at different gravitational levels with great fidelity in comparison to recent cardiac sphericity measurements performed during simulated reduced-gravity parabolic flight experiments. Moreover, the numerical predictions indicate that although the left ventricular strain distributions remain relatively unaltered across the gravitational fields and the strain extrema values occur at the same relative locations, their values change noticeably with decreasing gravity. As for the stress, however, both the magnitude and location of the extrema change with a decrease in the gravitational field. Consequently, tension regions of the heart on Earth can change into compression regions in space.

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