Send to

Choose Destination
J Mech Phys Solids. 2013 Sep 1;61(9):1955-1969.

On the effect of prestrain and residual stress in thin biological membranes.

Author information

Department of Mechanical Engineering, Stanford, California, USA.


Understanding the difference between ex vivo and in vivo measurements is critical to interpret the load carrying mechanisms of living biological systems. For the past four decades, the ex vivo stiffness of thin biological membranes has been characterized using uniaxial and biaxial tests with remarkably consistent stiffness parameters, even across different species. Recently, the in vivo stiffness was characterized using combined imaging techniques and inverse finite element analyses. Surprisingly, ex vivo and in vivo stiffness values differed by up to three orders of magnitude. Here, for the first time, we explain this tremendous discrepancy using the concept of prestrain. We illustrate the mathematical modeling of prestrain in nonlinear continuum mechanics through the multiplicative decomposition of the total elastic deformation into prestrain-induced and load-induced parts. Using in vivo measured membrane kinematics and associated pressure recordings, we perform an inverse finite element analysis for different prestrain levels and show that the resulting membrane stiffness may indeed differ by four orders of magnitude depending on the prestrain level. Our study motivates the hypothesis that prestrain is important to position thin biological membranes in vivo into their optimal operating range, right at the transition point of the stiffening regime. Understanding the effect of prestrain has direct clinical implications in regenerative medicine, medical device design, and and tissue engineering of replacement constructs for thin biological membranes.


finite element method; mitral leaflet; parameter identification; prestrain; residual strain; residual stress

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center