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Semin Perinatol. 2009 Oct;33(5):300-7. doi: 10.1053/j.semperi.2009.06.002.

Relationships between mechanical properties and extracellular matrix constituents of the cervical stroma during pregnancy.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Tufts Medical Center, Boston, MA 02111, USA.


In normal pregnancy, the cervix maintains its shape during a period of substantial fetal and uterine growth. Hence, maintenance of biomechanical integrity is an important aspect of cervical function. It is known that cervical mechanical properties arise from extracellular matrix (ECM). The most important constituent of the cervical ECM is fibrillar collagen-it is collagen protein that the cervix derives its "strength" from. Other matrix molecules known to affect the collagen network include water, proteoglycans, hyaluronan, and elastin. The objective of this review is to discuss relationships between biochemical constituents and macroscopic mechanical properties. The individual constituents of the ECM will be discussed, especially in regard to collagen remodeling during pregnancy. In addition, the macroscopic mechanical properties of cervical tissue will be reviewed. An improved understanding of the biochemistry of cervical "strength" will shed light on how the cervix maintains its shape in normal pregnancy and shortens in preterm birth.

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