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by Keyword: Mechanics


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Hernández-Vega, Amayra, Marsal, María, Pouille, Philippe-Alexandre, Tosi, Sébastien, Colombelli, Julien, Luque, Tomás, Navajas, Daniel, Pagonabarraga, Ignacio, Martín-Blanco, Enrique, (2017). Polarized cortical tension drives zebrafish epiboly movements EMBO Journal 36, (1), 25-41

The principles underlying the biomechanics of morphogenesis are largely unknown. Epiboly is an essential embryonic event in which three tissues coordinate to direct the expansion of the blastoderm. How and where forces are generated during epiboly, and how these are globally coupled remains elusive. Here we developed a method, hydrodynamic regression (HR), to infer 3D pressure fields, mechanical power, and cortical surface tension profiles. HR is based on velocity measurements retrieved from 2D+T microscopy and their hydrodynamic modeling. We applied HR to identify biomechanically active structures and changes in cortex local tension during epiboly in zebrafish. Based on our results, we propose a novel physical description for epiboly, where tissue movements are directed by a polarized gradient of cortical tension. We found that this gradient relies on local contractile forces at the cortex, differences in elastic properties between cortex components and the passive transmission of forces within the yolk cell. All in all, our work identifies a novel way to physically regulate concerted cellular movements that might be instrumental for the mechanical control of many morphogenetic processes.

Keywords: Epiboly, Hydrodynamics, Mechanics, Morphogenesis, Zebrafish


Jorba, I., Menal, M. J., Torres, M., Gozal, D., Piñol-Ripoll, G., Colell, A., Montserrat, J. M., Navajas, D., Farré, R., Almendros, I., (2017). Ageing and chronic intermittent hypoxia mimicking sleep apnea do not modify local brain tissue stiffness in healthy mice Journal of the Mechanical Behavior of Biomedical Materials 71, 106-113

Recent evidence suggests that obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) may increase the risk of Alzheimer´s disease (AD), with the latter promoting alterations in brain tissue stiffness, a feature of ageing. Here, we assessed the effects of age and intermittent hypoxia (IH) on brain tissue stiffness in a mouse model of OSA. Two-month-old and 18-month-old mice (N=10 each) were subjected to IH (20% O2 40 s – 6% O2 20 s) for 8 weeks (6 h/day). Corresponding control groups for each age were kept under normoxic conditions in room air (RA). After sacrifice, the brain was excised and 200-micron coronal slices were cut with a vibratome. Local stiffness of the cortex and hippocampus were assessed in brain slices placed in an Atomic Force Microscope. For both brain regions, the Young's modulus (E) in each animal was computed as the average values from 9 force-indentation curves. Cortex E mean (±SE) values were 442±122 Pa (RA) and 455±120 (IH) for young mice and 433±44 (RA) and 405±101 (IH) for old mice. Hippocampal E values were 376±62 (RA) and 474±94 (IH) for young mice and 486±93 (RA) and 521±210 (IH) for old mice. For both cortex and hippocampus, 2-way ANOVA indicated no statistically significant effects of age or challenge (IH vs. RA) on E values. Thus, neither chronic IH mimicking OSA nor ageing up to late middle age appear to modify local brain tissue stiffness in otherwise healthy mice.

Keywords: Atomic Force Microscopy, Brain mechanics, Cortex stiffness, Hippocampus stiffness, Obstructive sleep apnea, Young's modulus


Gumí-Audenis, Berta, Costa, Luca, Carlá, Francesco, Comin, Fabio, Sanz, Fausto, Giannotti, Marina, (2016). Structure and nanomechanics of model membranes by atomic force microscopy and spectroscopy: Insights into the role of cholesterol and sphingolipids Membranes 6, (4), 58

Biological membranes mediate several biological processes that are directly associated with their physical properties but sometimes difficult to evaluate. Supported lipid bilayers (SLBs) are model systems widely used to characterize the structure of biological membranes. Cholesterol (Chol) plays an essential role in the modulation of membrane physical properties. It directly influences the order and mechanical stability of the lipid bilayers, and it is known to laterally segregate in rafts in the outer leaflet of the membrane together with sphingolipids (SLs). Atomic force microscope (AFM) is a powerful tool as it is capable to sense and apply forces with high accuracy, with distance and force resolution at the nanoscale, and in a controlled environment. AFM-based force spectroscopy (AFM-FS) has become a crucial technique to study the nanomechanical stability of SLBs by controlling the liquid media and the temperature variations. In this contribution, we review recent AFM and AFM-FS studies on the effect of Chol on the morphology and mechanical properties of model SLBs, including complex bilayers containing SLs. We also introduce a promising combination of AFM and X-ray (XR) techniques that allows for in situ characterization of dynamic processes, providing structural, morphological, and nanomechanical information

Keywords: Atomic force microscopy, Force spectroscopy, Lipid membranes, Supported lipid bilayers, Nanomechanics, Cholesterol, Sphingolipids, Membrane structure, XR-AFM combination


Valero, C., Navarro, B., Navajas, D., García-Aznar, J. M., (2016). Finite element simulation for the mechanical characterization of soft biological materials by atomic force microscopy Journal of the Mechanical Behavior of Biomedical Materials 62, 222-235

The characterization of the mechanical properties of soft materials has been traditionally performed through uniaxial tensile tests. Nevertheless, this method cannot be applied to certain extremely soft materials, such as biological tissues or cells that cannot be properly subjected to these tests. Alternative non-destructive tests have been designed in recent years to determine the mechanical properties of soft biological tissues. One of these techniques is based on the use of atomic force microscopy (AFM) to perform nanoindentation tests. In this work, we investigated the mechanical response of soft biological materials to nanoindentation with spherical indenters using finite element simulations. We studied the responses of three different material constitutive laws (elastic, isotropic hyperelastic and anisotropic hyperelastic) under the same process and analyzed the differences thereof. Whereas linear elastic and isotropic hyperelastic materials can be studied using an axisymmetric simplification, anisotropic hyperelastic materials require three-dimensional analyses. Moreover, we established the limiting sample size required to determine the mechanical properties of soft materials while avoiding boundary effects. Finally, we compared the results obtained by simulation with an estimate obtained from Hertz theory. Hertz theory does not distinguish between the different material constitutive laws, and thus, we proposed corrections to improve the quantitative measurement of specific material properties by nanoindentation experiments.

Keywords: AFM, Cell mechanics, FEM, Nanoindentation, Soft-tissue


Blanchard, R., Morin, C., Malandrino, A., Vella, A., Sant, Z., Hellmich, C., (2016). Patient-specific fracture risk assessment of vertebrae: A multiscale approach coupling X-ray physics and continuum micromechanics International Journal for Numerical Methods in Biomedical Engineering 32, (9), e02760

Summary: While in clinical settings, bone mineral density measured by computed tomography (CT) remains the key indicator for bone fracture risk, there is an ongoing quest for more engineering mechanics-based approaches for safety analyses of the skeleton. This calls for determination of suitable material properties from respective CT data, where the traditional approach consists of regression analyses between attenuation-related grey values and mechanical properties. We here present a physics-oriented approach, considering that elasticity and strength of bone tissue originate from the material microstructure and the mechanical properties of its elementary components. Firstly, we reconstruct the linear relation between the clinically accessible grey values making up a CT, and the X-ray attenuation coefficients quantifying the intensity losses from which the image is actually reconstructed. Therefore, we combine X-ray attenuation averaging at different length scales and over different tissues, with recently identified 'universal' composition characteristics of the latter. This gives access to both the normally non-disclosed X-ray energy employed in the CT-device and to in vivo patient-specific and location-specific bone composition variables, such as voxel-specific mass density, as well as collagen and mineral contents. The latter feed an experimentally validated multiscale elastoplastic model based on the hierarchical organization of bone. Corresponding elasticity maps across the organ enter a finite element simulation of a typical load case, and the resulting stress states are increased in a proportional fashion, so as to check the safety against ultimate material failure. In the young patient investigated, even normal physiological loading is probable to already imply plastic events associated with the hydrated mineral crystals in the bone ultrastructure, while the safety factor against failure is still as high as five.

Keywords: Bone, Bone mass density, Continuum micromechanics, Elastoplasticity, Spine, Strength, X-ray physics


da Palma, R. K., Campillo, N., Uriarte, J. J., Oliveira, L. V. F., Navajas, D., Farré, R., (2015). Pressure- and flow-controlled media perfusion differently modify vascular mechanics in lung decellularization Journal of the Mechanical Behavior of Biomedical Materials 49, 69-79

Organ biofabrication is a potential future alternative for obtaining viable organs for transplantation. Achieving intact scaffolds to be recellularized is a key step in lung bioengineering. Perfusion of decellularizing media through the pulmonary artery has shown to be effective. How vascular perfusion pressure and flow vary throughout lung decellularization, which is not well known, is important for optimizing the process (minimizing time) while ensuring scaffold integrity (no barotrauma). This work was aimed at characterizing the pressure/flow relationship at the pulmonary vasculature and at how effective vascular resistance depends on pressure- and flow-controlled variables when applying different methods of media perfusion for lung decellularization. Lungs from 43 healthy mice (C57BL/6; 7-8 weeks old) were investigated. After excision and tracheal cannulation, lungs were inflated at 10cmH2O airway pressure and subjected to conventional decellularization with a solution of 1% sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS). Pressure (PPA) and flow (V'PA) at the pulmonary artery were continuously measured. Decellularization media was perfused through the pulmonary artery: (a) at constant PPA=20cmH2O or (b) at constant V'PA=0.5 and 0.2ml/min. Effective vascular resistance was computed as Rv=PPA/V'PA. Rv (in cmH2O/(ml/min)); mean±SE) considerably varied throughout lung decellularization, particularly for pressure-controlled perfusion (from 29.1±3.0 in baseline to a maximum of 664.1±164.3 (p<0.05), as compared with flow-controlled perfusion (from 49.9±3.3 and 79.5±5.1 in baseline to a maximum of 114.4±13.9 and 211.7±70.5 (p<0.05, both), for V'PA of 0.5 and 0.2ml/min respectively. Most of the media infused to the pulmonary artery throughout decellularization circulated to the airways compartment across the alveolar-capillary membrane. This study shows that monitoring perfusion mechanics throughout decellularization provides information relevant for optimizing the process time while ensuring that vascular pressure is kept within a safety range to preserve the organ scaffold integrity.

Keywords: Acellular lung, Fluid mechanics, Lung bioengineering, Lung scaffold, Organ biofabrication, Tissue engineering, Vascular resistance


Malandrino, Andrea, Lacroix, Damien, Hellmich, Christian, Ito, Keita, Ferguson, Stephen J., Noailly, J., (2014). The role of endplate poromechanical properties on the nutrient availability in the intervertebral disc Osteoarthritis and Cartilage 22, (7), 1053-1060

Objective To investigate the relevance of the human vertebral endplate poromechanics on the fluid and metabolic transport from and to the intervertebral disc (IVD) based on educated estimations of the poromechanical parameter values of the bony endplate (BEP). Methods 50 micro-models of different BEP samples were generated from

Keywords: Bony endplate, Spine mechanobiology, Intervertebral disc metabolites, Hydraulic Permeability, Bone Porosity, Poromechanics


Melo, E., Cárdenes, N., Garreta, E., Luque, T., Rojas, M., Navajas, D., Farré, R., (2014). Inhomogeneity of local stiffness in the extracellular matrix scaffold of fibrotic mouse lungs Journal of the Mechanical Behavior of Biomedical Materials 37, 186-195

Lung disease models are useful to study how cell engraftment, proliferation and differentiation are modulated in lung bioengineering. The aim of this work was to characterize the local stiffness of decellularized lungs in aged and fibrotic mice. Mice (2- and 24-month old; 14 of each) with lung fibrosis (N=20) and healthy controls (N=8) were euthanized after 11 days of intratracheal bleomycin (fibrosis) or saline (controls) infusion. The lungs were excised, decellularized by a conventional detergent-based (sodium-dodecyl sulfate) procedure and slices of the acellular lungs were prepared to measure the local stiffness by means of atomic force microscopy. The local stiffness of the different sites in acellular fibrotic lungs was very inhomogeneous within the lung and increased according to the degree of the structural fibrotic lesion. Local stiffness of the acellular lungs did not show statistically significant differences caused by age. The group of mice most affected by fibrosis exhibited local stiffness that were ~2-fold higher than in the control mice: from 27.2±1.64 to 64.8±7.1. kPa in the alveolar septa, from 56.6±4.6 to 99.9±11.7. kPa in the visceral pleura, from 41.1±8.0 to 105.2±13.6. kPa in the tunica adventitia, and from 79.3±7.2 to 146.6±28.8. kPa in the tunica intima. Since acellular lungs from mice with bleomycin-induced fibrosis present considerable micromechanical inhomogeneity, this model can be a useful tool to better investigate how different degrees of extracellular matrix lesion modulate cell fate in the process of organ bioengineering from decellularized lungs.

Keywords: Ageing, Atomic force microscopy, Decellularization, Lung fibrosis, Tissue engineering, Atomic force microscopy, Biological organs, Peptides, Sodium dodecyl sulfate, Sodium sulfate, Tissue engineering, Ageing, Decellularization, Extracellular matrices, Healthy controls, Inhomogeneities, Lung fibrosis, Micro-mechanical, Statistically significant difference, Mammals, bleomycin, adventitia, animal experiment, animal model, article, atomic force microscopy, bleomycin-induced pulmonary fibrosis, cell fate, controlled study, extracellular matrix, female, intima, lung alveolus, lung fibrosis, lung mechanics, mechanical probe, microenvironment, mouse, nonhuman, pleura, priority journal, rigidity, tissue engineering


Uriarte, J. J., Nonaka, P. N., Campillo, N., Palma, R. K., Melo, E., de Oliveira, L. V. F., Navajas, D., Farré, R., (2014). Mechanical properties of acellular mouse lungs after sterilization by gamma irradiation Journal of the Mechanical Behavior of Biomedical Materials 40, 168-177

Lung bioengineering using decellularized organ scaffolds is a potential alternative for lung transplantation. Clinical application will require donor scaffold sterilization. As gamma-irradiation is a conventional method for sterilizing tissue preparations for clinical application, the aim of this study was to evaluate the effects of lung scaffold sterilization by gamma irradiation on the mechanical properties of the acellular lung when subjected to the artificial ventilation maneuvers typical within bioreactors. Twenty-six mouse lungs were decellularized by a sodium dodecyl sulfate detergent protocol. Eight lungs were used as controls and 18 of them were submitted to a 31kGy gamma irradiation sterilization process (9 kept frozen in dry ice and 9 at room temperature). Mechanical properties of acellular lungs were measured before and after irradiation. Lung resistance (RL) and elastance (EL) were computed by linear regression fitting of recorded signals during mechanical ventilation (tracheal pressure, flow and volume). Static (Est) and dynamic (Edyn) elastances were obtained by the end-inspiratory occlusion method. After irradiation lungs presented higher values of resistance and elastance than before irradiation: RL increased by 41.1% (room temperature irradiation) and 32.8% (frozen irradiation) and EL increased by 41.8% (room temperature irradiation) and 31.8% (frozen irradiation). Similar increases were induced by irradiation in Est and Edyn. Scanning electron microscopy showed slight structural changes after irradiation, particularly those kept frozen. Sterilization by gamma irradiation at a conventional dose to ensure sterilization modifies acellular lung mechanics, with potential implications for lung bioengineering.

Keywords: Gamma irradiation, Lung bioengineering, Lung decellularization, Organ scaffold, Pulmonary mechanics, Decellularization, Gamma irradiation, Mouse lung, Pulmonary mechanics, dodecyl sulfate sodium, animal tissue, Article, artificial ventilation, bioengineering, bioreactor, compliance (physical), controlled study, freezing, gamma irradiation, lung, lung mechanics, lung resistance, male, mouse, nonhuman, room temperature, scanning electron microscopy, tissue scaffold, trachea pressure


Rajzer, I., Menaszek, E., Kwiatkowski, R., Planell, J. A., Castaño, O., (2014). Electrospun gelatin/poly( Materials Science and Engineering: C 44, 183-190

In this study gelatin (Gel) modified with calcium phosphate nanoparticles (SG5) and polycaprolactone (PCL) were used to prepare a 3D bi-layer scaffold by collecting electrospun PCL and gelatin/SG5 fibers separately in the same collector. The objective of this study was to combine the desired properties of PCL and Gel/SG5 in the same scaffold in order to enhance mineralization, thus improving the ability of the scaffold to bond to the bone tissue. The scanning electron microscopy (SEM), Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) and the wide angle X-ray diffraction (WAXD) measurements confirmed that SG5 nanoparticles were successfully incorporated into the fibrous gelatin matrix. The composite Gel/SG5/PCL scaffold exhibited more enhanced mechanical properties than individual Gel and Gel/SG5 scaffolds. The presence of SG5 nanoparticles accelerated the nucleation and growth of apatite crystals on the surface of the composite Gel/SG5/PCL scaffold in simulated body fluid (SBF). The osteoblast response in vitro to developed electrospun scaffolds (PCL and Gel/SG5/PCL) was investigated by using normal human primary NHOst cell lines. NHOst cell culture studies showed that higher alkaline phosphatase (ALP) activity and better mineralization were obtained in the case of composite materials than in pure PCL scaffolds. The mechanically strong PCL scaffold served as a skeleton, while the Gel/SG5 fibers facilitated cell spreading and mineralization of the scaffold.

Keywords: Bilayer fibrous scaffold, Ceramic nanoparticles, Electrospinning, Gelatin, Polycaprolactone, Biomechanics, Bone, Calcium phosphate, Cell culture, Electrospinning, Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, Mechanical properties, Mineralogy, Nanoparticles, Phosphatases, Polycaprolactone, Scanning electron microscopy, X ray diffraction, Polycaprolactone, Alkaline phosphatase activity, Bone tissue engineering, Calcium phosphate nanoparticles, Ceramic nanoparticles, Fibrous scaffolds, Gelatin, Simulated body fluids, Wide-angle x-ray diffraction, Electrospuns, Scaffolds (biology), Electrospinning


Malandrino, A., Noailly, J., Lacroix, D., (2014). Numerical exploration of the combined effect of nutrient supply, tissue condition and deformation in the intervertebral disc Journal of Biomechanics 47, (6), 1520-1525

Novel strategies to heal discogenic low back pain could highly benefit from comprehensive biophysical studies that consider both mechanical and biological factors involved in intervertebral disc degeneration. A decrease in nutrient availability at the bone-disc interface has been indicated as a relevant risk factor and as a possible initiator of cell death processes. Mechanical behaviour of both healthy and degenerated discs could highly interact with cell death in these compromised situations. In the present study, a mechano-transport finite element model was used to investigate the nature of mechanical effects on cell death processes via load-induced metabolic transport variations. Cycles of static sustained compression were chosen to simulate daily human activity. Healthy and degenerated cases were simulated as well as a reduced supply of solutes and an increase in solute exchange area at the bone-disc interface. Results showed that a reduction in metabolite concentrations at the bone-disc boundaries induced cell death, even when the increased exchange area was simulated. Slight local mechanical enhancements of glucose in the disc centre were capable of decelerating cell death but occurred only with healthy mechanical properties. However, mechanical deformations were responsible for a worsening in terms of cell death in the inner annulus, a disadvantaged zone far from the boundary supply with both an increased cell demand and a strain-dependent decrease of diffusivity. Such adverse mechanical effects were more accentuated when degenerative properties were simulated. Overall, this study paves the way for the use of biophysical models for a more integrated understanding of intervertebral disc pathophysiology.

Keywords: Boundary conditions, Cell nutrition, Cell viability, Computational analysis, Intervertebraldisc, Softtissuebiomechanics


Pérez-Amodio, Soledad, Engel, Elisabeth, (2014). Bone biology and Regeneration Bio-Ceramics with Clinical Applications (ed. Vallet-Regí, M.), John Wiley & Sons, Ltd (Chichester, UK) , 315-342

Each bone of the skeleton constantly undergoes modeling during life to help it to adapt to changing biomechanical forces as well as remodeling to remove old bone and replace it with new, mechanically stronger bone to help preserve bone strength. Bone remodeling involves the removal of mineralized bone by osteoclasts, followed by the formation of bone matrix through the osteoblasts that subsequently become mineralized. All these assets make bone a suitable model for regeneration. Bone tissue can be grossly divided into inorganic mineral material (mostly HA), and organic material from cells and the extracellular matrix. This chapter outlines some of the bone diseases such as osteoporosis and Paget's disease. Bone can be considered as a biphasic composite material, with two phases: one the mineral and the other collagen. This combination confers better mechanical properties on the tissue than each component itself.

Keywords: Bone biology, Bone cells, Bone diseases, Bone extracellular matrix, Bone mechanics, Bone remodeling, Bone tissue regeneration, Skeleton


Noailly, J., Malandrino, A., Galbusera, F., Jin, Zhongmin, (2014). Computational modelling of spinal implants Computational Modelling of Biomechanics and Biotribology in the Musculoskeletal System (ed. Jin, Z.), Woodhead Publishing (Cambridge, UK) Biomaterials and Tissues, 447-484

This chapter focuses on the use of the finite element method in the design and exploration of spinal implants. Following an introduction to biomechanical alterations of the spine in disease and to spine finite element modelling, focus is placed on different models developed for spine treatment simulations. Despite the hindrance of working thorough representations of in vivo situations, predictions of load transfer within both the implants and the tissues simulated allow improved interpretations of known clinical outcomes, and permit the educated design of new implants. The potential of probabilistic modelling is also discussed in relation to model validation and patient-specific analyses. Finally, the latest developments in the multiphysical modelling of intervertebral discs are presented, revealing a strong potential for the study of implant-based strategies that aim to restore the functional biophysics of the spine.

Keywords: Spinal implant, Finite element modelling, Spine surgery, Spine biomechanics, Tissue mechanobiology


Ghassemi, S., Meacci, G., Liu, S., Gondarenko, A. A., Mathur, A., Roca-Cusachs, P., Sheetz, M. P., Hone, J., (2012). Cells test substrate rigidity by local contractions on submicrometer pillars Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 109, (14), 5328-5333

Cell growth and differentiation are critically dependent upon matrix rigidity, yet many aspects of the cellular rigidity-sensing mechanism are not understood. Here, we analyze matrix forces after initial cell-matrix contact, when early rigidity-sensing events occur, using a series of elastomeric pillar arrays with dimensions extending to the submicron scale (2, 1, and 0.5 μm in diameter covering a range of stiffnesses). We observe that the cellular response is fundamentally different on micron-scale and submicron pillars. On 2-μm diameter pillars, adhesions form at the pillar periphery, forces are directed toward the center of the cell, and a constant maximum force is applied independent of stiffness. On 0.5-μm diameter pillars, adhesions form on the pillar tops, and local contractions between neighboring pillars are observed with a maximum displacement of ∼60 nm, independent of stiffness. Because mutants in rigidity sensing show no detectable displacement on 0.5-μm diameter pillars, there is a correlation between local contractions to 60 nm and rigidity sensing. Localization of myosin between submicron pillars demonstrates that submicron scale myosin filaments can cause these local contractions. Finally, submicron pillars can capture many details of cellular force generation that are missed on larger pillars and more closely mimic continuous surfaces.

Keywords: Cell mechanics, Mechanotransduction, Nanofabrication


Redondo-Morata, L., Giannotti, M. I., Sanz, F., (2012). AFM-based force-clamp monitors lipid bilayer failure kinetics Langmuir 28, (15), 6403-6410

The lipid bilayer rupture phenomenon is here explored by means of atomic force microscopy (AFM)-based force clamp, for the first time to our knowledge, to evaluate how lipid membranes respond when compressed under an external constant force, in the range of nanonewtons. Using this method, we were able to directly quantify the kinetics of the membrane rupture event and the associated energy barriers, for both single supported bilayers and multibilayers, in contradistinction to the classic studies performed at constant velocity. Moreover, the affected area of the membrane during the rupture process was calculated using an elastic deformation model. The elucidated information not only contributes to a better understanding of such relevant process, but also proves the suitability of AFM-based force clamp to study model structures as lipid bilayers. These findings on the kinetics of lipid bilayers rupture could be extended and applied to the study of other molecular thin films. Furthermore, systems of higher complexity such as models mimicking cell membranes could be studied by means of AFM-based force-clamp technique.

Keywords: Chain-Length, Spectroscopy, Nanomechanics, Microscopy, Elasticity, Stability, Membranes, Reveals, Fusion, Ions


Malandrino, A., Fritsch, A., Lahayne, O., Kropik, K., Redl, H., Noailly, J., Lacroix, D., Hellmich, C., (2012). Anisotropic tissue elasticity in human lumbar vertebra, by means of a coupled ultrasound-micromechanics approach Materials Letters 78, 154-158

The extremely fine structure of vertebral cortex challenges reliable determination of the tissue's anisotropic elasticity, which is important for the spine's load carrying patterns often causing pain in patients. As a potential remedy, we here propose a combined experimental (ultrasonic) and modeling (micromechanics) approach. Longitudinal acoustic waves are sent in longitudinal (superior-inferior, axial) as well as transverse (circumferential) direction through millimeter-sized samples containing this vertebral cortex, and corresponding wave velocities agree very well with recently identified 'universal' compositional and acoustic characteristics (J Theor Biol 287:115, 2011), which are valid for a large data base comprising different bones from different species and different organs. This provides evidence that the 'universal' organization patterns inherent to all the bone tissues of the aforementioned data base also hold for vertebral bone. Consequently, an experimentally validated model covering the mechanical effects of this organization patterns (J Theor Biol 244:597, 2007, J Theor Biol 260:230, 2009) gives access to the complete elasticity tensor of human lumbar vertebral bone tissue, as a valuable input for structural analyses aiming at patient-specific fracture risk assessment, e.g. based on the Finite Element Method.

Keywords: Human vertebra, Micromechanics, Tissue elasticity, Ultrasonics


Antelis, J.M., Montesano, L., Giralt, X., Casals, A., Minguez, J., (2012). Detection of movements with attention or distraction to the motor task during robot-assisted passive movements of the upper limb Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBC) 34th Annual International Conference of the IEEE , IEEE (San Diego, USA) , 6410-6413

Robot-assisted rehabilitation therapies usually focus on physical aspects rather than on cognitive factors. However, cognitive aspects such as attention, motivation, and engagement play a critical role in motor learning and thus influence the long-term success of rehabilitation programs. This paper studies motor-related EEG activity during the execution of robot-assisted passive movements of the upper limb, while participants either: i) focused attention exclusively on the task; or ii) simultaneously performed another task. Six healthy subjects participated in the study and results showed lower desynchronization during passive movements with another task simultaneously being carried out (compared to passive movements with exclusive attention on the task). In addition, it was proved the feasibility to distinguish between the two conditions.

Keywords: Electrodes, Electroencephalography, Induction motors, Medical treatment, Robot sensing systems, Time frequency analysis, Biomechanics, Cognition, Electroencephalography, Medical robotics, Medical signal detection, Medical signal processing, Patient rehabilitation, Attention, Cognitive aspects, Desynchronization, Engagement, Motivation, Motor learning, Motor task, Motor-related EEG activity, Physical aspects, Robot-assisted passive movement detection, Robot-assisted rehabilitation therapies, Upper limb


Redondo, L., Giannotti, M. I., Sanz, F., (2012). Stability of lipid bilayers as model membranes: Atomic force microscopy and spectroscopy approach Atomic force microscopy in liquid (ed. Baró, A. M., Reifenberger, R. G.), Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co.KGaA (Weinheim, Germany) Part I: General Atomic Force Microscopy, 259-284

Angelini, Thomas E., Hannezo, Edouard, Trepat, Xavier, Marquez, Manuel, Fredberg, Jeffrey J., Weitz, David A., (2011). Glass-like dynamics of collective cell migration Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 108, (12), 4714-4719

Collective cell migration in tissues occurs throughout embryonic development, during wound healing, and in cancerous tumor invasion, yet most detailed knowledge of cell migration comes from single-cell studies. As single cells migrate, the shape of the cell body fluctuates dramatically through cyclic processes of extension, adhesion, and retraction, accompanied by erratic changes in migration direction. Within confluent cell layers, such subcellular motions must be coupled between neighbors, yet the influence of these subcellular motions on collective migration is not known. Here we study motion within a confluent epithelial cell sheet, simultaneously measuring collective migration and subcellular motions, covering a broad range of length scales, time scales, and cell densities. At large length scales and time scales collective migration slows as cell density rises, yet the fastest cells move in large, multicell groups whose scale grows with increasing cell density. This behavior has an intriguing analogy to dynamic heterogeneities found in particulate systems as they become more crowded and approach a glass transition. In addition we find a diminishing self-diffusivity of short-wavelength motions within the cell layer, and growing peaks in the vibrational density of states associated with cooperative cell-shape fluctuations. Both of these observations are also intriguingly reminiscent of a glass transition. Thus, these results provide a broad and suggestive analogy between cell motion within a confluent layer and the dynamics of supercooled colloidal and molecular fluids approaching a glass transition.

Keywords: Active matter, Cell mechanics, Jamming, Collective cell dynamics, Nonequilibrium


Cagido, Viviane Ramos, Zin, Walter Araujo, Ramirez, Jose, Navajas, Daniel, Farre, Ramon, (2011). Alternating ventilation in a rat model of increased abdominal pressure Respiratory Physiology & Neurobiology 175, (3), 310-315

During alternating ventilation (AV) one lung is inflating while the other is deflating. Considering the possible respiratory and hemodynamic advantages of AV, we investigated its effects during increased intra-abdominal pressure (IAP = 10 mmHg). In Sprague-Dawley rats (n = 6, 270–375 g) the main bronchi were independently cannulated, and respiratory mechanics determined while animals underwent different ventilatory patterns: synchronic ventilation without increased IAP (SV-0), elevated IAP during SV (SV-10), and AV with elevated IAP (AV-10). Thirty-three other animals (SV-0, n = 10; SV-10, n = 11 and AV-10, n = 12) were ventilated during 3 h. Mean arterial pressure (MAP), and lung histology were assessed. Increased IAP resulted in significantly higher elastances (p < 0.001), being AV-10 lower than SV-10 (p < 0.020). SV-10 showed higher central venous pressure (p < 0.003) than S-0; no change was observed in AV-10. Wet/dry lung weight ratio was lower in AV-10 than SV-10 (p = 0.009). Application of AV reduced hemodynamic and lung impairments induced by increased IAP during SV.

Keywords: Alternating ventilation, Respiratory mechanics, Intra-abdominal pressure, Hemodynamic, Mechanical ventilation, Animal model


Garcia-Manyes, S., Sanz, F., (2010). Nanomechanics of lipid bilayers by force spectroscopy with AFM: A perspective Biochimica et Biophysica Acta - Biomembranes 1798, (4), 741-749

Lipid bilayers determine the architecture of cell membranes and regulate a myriad of distinct processes that are highly dependent on the lateral organization of the phospholipid molecules that compose the membrane. Indeed, the mechanochemical properties of the membrane are strongly correlated with the function of several membrane proteins, which demand a very specific, highly localized physicochemical environment to perform their function. Several mesoscopic techniques have been used in the past to investigate the mechanical properties of lipid membranes. However, they were restricted to the study of the ensemble properties of giant bilayers. Force spectroscopy with AFM has emerged as a powerful technique able to provide valuable insights into the nanomechanical properties of supported lipid membranes at the nanometer/nanonewton scale in a wide variety of systems. In particular, these measurements have allowed direct measurement of the molecular interactions arising between neighboring phospholipid molecules and between the lipid molecules and the surrounding solvent environment. The goal of this review is to illustrate how these novel experiments have provided a new vista on membrane mechanics in a confined area within the nanometer realm, where most of the specific molecular interactions take place. Here we report in detail the main discoveries achieved by force spectroscopy with AFM on supported lipid bilayers, and we also discuss on the exciting future perspectives offered by this growing research field.

Keywords: Force spectroscopy, Atomic force microscopy, Lipid bilayer, Nanomechanics


Park, C. Y., Tambe, D., Alencar, A. M., Trepat, X., Zhou, E. H., Millet, E., Butler, J. P., Fredberg, J. J., (2010). Mapping the cytoskeletal prestress The American Journal of Physiology - Cell Physiology 298, (5), C1245-C1252

Park CY, Tambe D, Alencar AM, Trepat X, Zhou EH, Millet E, Butler JP, Fredberg JJ. Mapping the cytoskeletal prestress. Am J Physiol Cell Physiol 298: C1245-C1252, 2010. First published February 17, 2010; doi: 10.1152/ajpcell.00417.2009.-Cell mechanical properties on a whole cell basis have been widely studied, whereas local intracellular variations have been less well characterized and are poorly understood. To fill this gap, here we provide detailed intracellular maps of regional cytoskeleton (CSK) stiffness, loss tangent, and rate of structural rearrangements, as well as their relationships to the underlying regional F-actin density and the local cytoskeletal prestress. In the human airway smooth muscle cell, we used micropatterning to minimize geometric variation. We measured the local cell stiffness and loss tangent with optical magnetic twisting cytometry and the local rate of CSK remodeling with spontaneous displacements of a CSK-bound bead. We also measured traction distributions with traction microscopy and cell geometry with atomic force microscopy. On the basis of these experimental observations, we used finite element methods to map for the first time the regional distribution of intracellular prestress. Compared with the cell center or edges, cell corners were systematically stiffer and more fluidlike and supported higher traction forces, and at the same time had slower remodeling dynamics. Local remodeling dynamics had a close inverse relationship with local cell stiffness. The principal finding, however, is that systematic regional variations of CSK stiffness correlated only poorly with regional F-actin density but strongly and linearly with the regional prestress. Taken together, these findings in the intact cell comprise the most comprehensive characterization to date of regional variations of cytoskeletal mechanical properties and their determinants.

Keywords: Cell mechanics, Stiffness, Remodeling, Heterogeneity


Sarlabous, L., Torres, A., Fiz, J. A., Gea, J., Marti nez-Llorens, J. M., Morera, J., Jané, R., (2010). Interpretation of the approximate entropy using fixed tolerance values as a measure of amplitude variations in biomedical signals Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBC) 32nd Annual International Conference of the IEEE , IEEE (Buenos Aires, Argentina) , 5967-5970

A new method for the quantification of amplitude variations in biomedical signals through moving approximate entropy is presented. Unlike the usual method to calculate the approximate entropy (ApEn), in which the tolerance value (r) varies based on the standard deviation of each moving window, in this work ApEn has been computed using a fixed value of r. We called this method, moving approximate entropy with fixed tolerance values: ApEn/sub f/. The obtained results indicate that ApEn/sub f/ allows determining amplitude variations in biomedical data series. These amplitude variations are better determined when intermediate values of tolerance are used. The study performed in diaphragmatic mechanomyographic signals shows that the ApEn/sub f/ curve is more correlated with the respiratory effort than the standard RMS amplitude parameter. Furthermore, it has been observed that the ApEn/sub f/ parameter is less affected by the existence of impulsive, sinusoidal, constant and Gaussian noises in comparison with the RMS amplitude parameter.

Keywords: Practical, Theoretical or Mathematical/ biomechanics, Entropy, Gaussian noise, Medical signal processing, Muscle, Random processes/ approximate entropy interpretation, Fixed tolerance values, Diaphragmatic mechanomyographic signals, ApEnf curve, Respiratory effort, Gaussian noises


Torres, A., Sarlabous, L., Fiz, j A., Gea, J., Marti nez-Llorens, J. M., Morera, J., Jané, R., (2010). Noninvasive measurement of inspiratory muscle performance by means of diaphragm muscle mechanomyographic signals in COPD patients during an incremental load respiratory test Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBC) 32nd Annual International Conference of the IEEE , IEEE (Buenos Aires, Argentina) , 2493-2496

The study of mechanomyographic (MMG) signals of respiratory muscles is a promising noninvasive technique in order to evaluate the respiratory muscular effort and efficiency. In this work, the MMG signal of the diaphragm muscle it is evaluated in order to assess the respiratory muscular function in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) patients. The MMG signals from left and right hemidiaphragm were acquired using two capacitive accelerometers placed on both left and right sides of the costal wall surface. The MMG signals and the inspiratory pressure signal were acquired while the COPD patients carried out an inspiratory load respiratory test. The population of study is composed of a group of 6 patients with severe COPD (FEV1>50% ref and DLCO<50% ref). We have found high positive correlation coefficients between the maximum inspiratory pressure (IPmax) developed in a respiratory cycle and different amplitude parameters of both left and right MMG signals (RMS, left: 0.68+/-0.11 - right: 0.69+/-0.12; Re nyi entropy, left: - 0.73+/-0.10 - right: 0.77+/-0.08; Multistate Lempel-Ziv, left: 0.73+/-0.17 - right: 0.74+/-0.08), and negative correlation between the Pmax and the maximum frequency of the MMG signal spectrum (left: -0.39+/-0.19 - right: -0.65+/-0.09). Furthermore, we found that the slope of the evolution of the MMG amplitude parameters, as the load increases during the respiratory test, has positive correlation with the %FEV1/FVC pulmonary function test parameter of the six COPD patients analyzed (RMS, left: 0.38 - right: 0.41; Re nyi entropy, left: 0.45 - right: 0.63; Multistate Lempel-Ziv, left: 0.39 - right: 0.64). These results suggest that the information provided by MMG signals could be used in order to evaluate the respiratory effort and the muscular efficiency in COPD patients.

Keywords: Accelerometers, Biomechanics, Biomedical measurement, Diseases, Medical signal processing, Muscle


Amigo, L.E., Casals, A., Amat, J., (2010). Polyarticulated architecture for the emulation of an isocentric joint in orthetic applications BioRob 2010 3rd IEEE RAS & EMBS International Conference on Biomedical Robotics and Biomechatronics , IEEE (Tokyo, Japan) , 825-830

The design of orthotic devices that tries to fit to the anthropomorphic structure of human limbs faces the problem of achieving the highest approximation to the anatomical kinematics. This paper studies the main characteristics and performances of orthotic devices, mainly focusing on the upper limbs, and proposes a solution to the problem of the superposition of rotation and displacement of some joints, as the shoulder, elbow or knee. A 3 DoF virtual joint is proposed to emulate a human joint, solving the isocentricity and size adaptation of most current orthosis.

Keywords: Prosthetics and other practical applications, Prosthetics and orthotics, Prosthetic and orthotic control systems, Robotics, Biomechanics (mechanical engineering), Robot and manipulator mechanics


Lacroix, D., Planell, J. A., Prendergast, P. J., (2009). Computer-aided design and finite-element modelling of biomaterial scaffolds for bone tissue engineering Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A-Mathematical Physical and Engineering Sciences 367, (1895), 1993-2009

Scaffold biomaterials for tissue engineering can be produced in many different ways depending on the applications and the materials used. Most research into new biomaterials is based on an experimental trial-and-error approach that limits the possibility of making many variations to a single material and studying its interaction with its surroundings. Instead, computer simulation applied to tissue engineering can offer a more exhaustive approach to test and screen out biomaterials. In this paper, a review of the current approach in biomaterials designed through computer-aided design (CAD) and through finite-element modelling is given. First we review the approach used in tissue engineering in the development of scaffolds and the interactions existing between biomaterials, cells and mechanical stimuli. Then, scaffold fabrication through CAD is presented and characterization of existing scaffolds through computed images is reviewed. Several case studies of finite-element studies in tissue engineering show the usefulness of computer simulations in determining the mechanical environment of cells when seeded into a scaffold and the proper design of the geometry and stiffness of the scaffold. This creates a need for more advanced studies that include aspects of mechanobiology in tissue engineering in order to be able to predict over time the growth and differentiation of tissues within scaffolds. Finally, current perspectives indicate that more efforts need to be put into the development of such advanced studies, with the removal of technical limitations such as computer power and the inclusion of more accurate biological and genetic processes into the developed algorithms.

Keywords: Biomechanics, Tissue engineering, Biomaterials, Finite-element modelling


Puig, F., Gavara, N., Sunyer, R., Carreras, A., Farre, R., Navajas, D., (2009). Stiffening and contraction induced by dexamethasone in alveolar epithelial cells Experimental Mechanics 49, (1), 47-55

The structural integrity of the alveolar monolayer, which is compromised during lung inflammation, is determined by the balance between cell-cell and cell-matrix tethering forces and the centripetal forces owing to cell viscoelasticity and contraction. Dexamethasone is an anti-inflammatory glucocorticoid with protective effects in lung injury. To determine the effects of Dexamethasone on the stiffness and contractility of alveolar epithelial cells. Cell stiffness (G') and average traction exerted by the cell (T) were measured by magnetic twisting cytometry and by traction microscopy, respectively. A549 cells were treated 24 h with Dexamethasone (1 mu M) or vehicle (control). G' and T were measured before and 5 min after challenge with the inflammatory mediator Thrombin (0.5 U/ml). Changes induced by Dexamethasone in actin cytoskeleton polymerization were assessed by the fluorescent ratio between F-actin and G-actin obtained by staining cells with phalloidin and DNase I. Dexamethasone significantly increased G' and T by 56% (n = 11; p < 0.01) and by 80% (n = 17; p < 0.05), respectively. Dexamethasone also increased F/G-actin ratio from 2.68 +/- 0.07 to 2.96 +/- 0.09 (n = 10; p < 0.05). The relative increase in stiffness and contraction induced by Thrombin in control cells was significantly (p < 0.05) reduced by Dexamethasone treatment: from 190 to 98% in G' and from 318 to 105% in T. The cytoskeleton remodelling and the increase in cell stiffness and contraction induced by Dexamethasone could account for its protective effect in the alveolar epithelium when subjected to inflammatory challenge.

Keywords: Cell mechanics, Cytoskeleton, Magnetic twisting cytometry, Traction microscopy, Respiratory diseases


Orini, Michele, Giraldo, Beatriz F., Bailon, Raquel, Vallverdu, Montserrat, Mainardi, Luca, Benito, Salvador, Diaz, Ivan, Caminal, Pere, (2008). Time-frequency analysis of cardiac and respiratory parameters for the prediction of ventilator weaning IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society Conference Proceedings 30th Annual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (ed. IEEE), IEEE (Vancouver, Canada) 1-8, 2793-2796

Mechanical ventilators are used to provide life support in patients with respiratory failure. Assessing autonomic control during the ventilator weaning provides information about physiopathological imbalances. Autonomic parameters can be derived and used to predict success in discontinuing from the mechanical support. Time-frequency analysis is used to derive cardiac and respiratory parameters, as well as their evolution in time, during ventilator weaning in 130 patients. Statistically significant differences have been observed in autonomic parameters between patients who are considered ready for spontaneous breathing and patients who are not. A classification based on respiratory frequency, heart rate and heart rate variability spectral components has been proposed and has been able to correctly classify more than 80% of the cases.

Keywords: Automatic Data Processing, Databases, Factual, Electrocardiography, Humans, Models, Statistical, Respiration, Respiration, Artificial, Respiratory Insufficiency, Respiratory Mechanics, Respiratory Muscles, Signal Processing, Computer-Assisted, Time Factors, Ventilator Weaning, Ventilators, Mechanical, Work of Breathing


Rico, Félix, Roca-Cusachs, Pere, Sunyer, Raimon, Farré, Ramon, Navajas, Daniel, (2007). Cell dynamic adhesion and elastic properties probed with cylindrical atomic force microscopy cantilever tips Journal of Molecular Recognition John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. 20, (6), 459-466

Cell adhesion is required for essential biological functions such as migration, tissue formation and wound healing, and it is mediated by individual molecules that bind specifically to ligands on other cells or on the extracellular matrix. Atomic force microscopy (AFM) has been successfully used to measure cell adhesion at both single molecule and whole cell levels. However, the measurement of inherent cell adhesion properties requires a constant cell-probe contact area during indentation, a requirement which is not fulfilled in common pyramidal or spherical AFM tips. We developed a procedure using focused ion beam (FIB) technology by which we modified silicon pyramidal AFM cantilever tips to obtain flat-ended cylindrical tips with a constant and known area of contact. The tips were validated on elastic gels and living cells. Cylindrical tips showed a fairly linear force-indentation behaviour on both gels and cells for indentations > 200nm. Cylindrical tips coated with ligands were used to quantify inherent dynamic cell adhesion and elastic properties. Force, work of adhesion and elasticity showed a marked dynamic response. In contrast, the deformation applied to the cells before rupture was fairly constant within the probed dynamic range. Taken together, these results suggest that the dynamic adhesion strength is counterbalanced by the dynamic elastic response to keep a constant cell deformation regardless of the applied pulling rate.

Keywords: AFM, Cell adhesion, Cell mechanics, Cell stiffness


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