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J Biomech. 2009 Jun 19;42(9):1320-5. doi: 10.1016/j.jbiomech.2009.03.012. Epub 2009 Apr 23.

Modelling the mechanical response of elastin for arterial tissue.

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Department of Engineering Science and Institute of Biomedical Engineering, University of Oxford, Parks Road, Oxford, UK.


We compare two constitutive models proposed to model the elastinous constituents of an artery. Holzapfel and Weizs├Ącker [1998. Biomechanical behavior of the arterial wall and its numerical characterization. Comput. Biol. Med. 28, 377-392] attribute a neo-Hookean response, i.e. Psi=c(I(1)-3)), to the elastin whilst Zulliger et al. [2004a. A strain energy function for arteries accounting for wall composition and structure. J. Biomech. 37, 989-1000] propose Psi=c(I(1)-3)(3/2). We analyse these constitutive models for two specific cases: (i) uniaxial extension of an elastinous sheet; (ii) inflation of a cylindrical elastinous membrane. For case (i) we illustrate the functional relationships between: (a) the Cauchy stress (CS) and the Green-Lagrange (GL) strain; (b) the tangent modulus (gradient of the CS-GL strain curve) and linearised strain. The predicted mechanical responses are compared with recent uniaxial extension tests on elastin [Gundiah, N., Ratcliffe, M.B., Pruitt, L.A., 2007. Determination of strain energy function for arterial elastin: experiments using histology and mechanical tests. J. Biomech. 40, 586-594; Lillie, M.A., Gosline, J.M., 2007a. Limits to the durability of arterial elastic tissue. Biomaterials 28, 2021-2031; 2007b. Mechanical properties of elastin along the thoracic aorta in the pig. J. Biomech. 40, 2214-2221]. The neo-Hookean model accurately predicts the mechanical response of a single elastin fibre. However, it is unable to accurately capture the mechanical response of arterial elastin, e.g. the initial toe region of arterial elastin (if it exists) or the gradual increase in modulus of arterial elastin that occurs as it is stretched. The alternative constitutive model (n=32) yields a nonlinear mechanical response that departs from recent uniaxial test data mentioned above, for the same stretch range. For case (ii) we illustrate the pressure-circumferential stretch relationships and the gradients of the pressure-circumferential stretch curves: significant qualitative differences are observed. For the neo-Hookean model, the gradient decreases rapidly to zero, however, for n=32, the gradient decreases more gradually to a constant value. We conclude that whilst the neo-Hookean model has limitations, it appears to capture more accurately the mechanical response of elastin.

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