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J Biomech Eng. 2004 Dec;126(6):699-708.

Local, three-dimensional strain measurements within largely deformed extracellular matrix constructs.

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Department of Biomedical Engineering, Purdue University, 500 Central Drive, West Lafayette, IN 47907-2022, USA.


The ability to create extracellular matrix (ECM) constructs that are mechanically and biochemically similar to those found in vivo and to understand how their properties affect cellular responses will drive the next generation of tissue engineering strategies. To date, many mechanisms by which cells biochemically communicate with the ECM are known. However the mechanisms by which mechanical information is transmitted between cells and their ECM remain to be elucidated. "Self-assembled" collagen matrices provide an in vitro-model system to study the mechanical behavior of ECM. To begin to understand how the ECM and the cells interact mechanically, the three-dimensional (3D) mechanical properties of the ECM must be quantified at the micro-(local) level in addition to information measured at the macro-(global) level. Here we describe an incremental digital volume correlation (IDVC) algorithm to quantify large (>0.05) 3D mechanical strains in the microstructure of 3D collagen matrices in response to applied mechanical loads. Strain measurements from the IDVC algorithm rely on 3D confocal images acquired from collagen matrices under applied mechanical loads. The accuracy and the precision of the IDVC algorithm was verified by comparing both image volumes collected in succession when no deformation was applied to the ECM (zero strain) and image volumes to which simulated deformations were applied in both ID and 3D (simulated strains). Results indicate that the IDVC algorithm can accurately and precisely determine the 3D strain state inside largely deformed collagen ECMs. Finally, the usefulness of the algorithm was demonstrated by measuring the microlevel 3D strain response of a collagen ECM loaded in tension.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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