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Publications

by Keyword: Viscoelasticity

De Corato, M, Arroyo, M, (2022). A theory for the flow of chemically responsive polymer solutions: Equilibrium and shear-induced phase separation Journal Of Rheology 66, 813-835

Chemically responsive polymers are macromolecules that respond to local variations of the chemical composition of the solution by changing their conformation, with notable examples including polyelectrolytes, proteins, and DNA. The polymer conformation changes can occur in response to changes in the pH, the ionic strength, or the concentration of a generic solute that interacts with the polymer. These chemical stimuli can lead to drastic variations of the polymer flexibility and even trigger a transition from a coil to a globule polymer conformation. In many situations, the spatial distribution of the chemical stimuli can be highly inhomogeneous, which can lead to large spatial variations of polymer conformation and of the rheological properties of the mixture. In this paper, we develop a theory for the flow of a mixture of solute and chemically responsive polymers. The approach is valid for generic flows and inhomogeneous distributions of polymers and solutes. To model the polymer conformation changes introduced by the interactions with the solute, we consider the polymers as linear elastic dumbbells whose spring stiffness depends on the solute concentration. We use Onsager's variational formalism to derive the equations governing the evolution of the variables, which unveils novel couplings between the distribution of dumbbells and that of the solute. Finally, we use a linear stability analysis to show that the governing equations predict an equilibrium phase separation and a distinct shear-induced phase separation whereby a homogeneous distribution of solute and dumbbells spontaneously demix. Similar phase transitions have been observed in previous experiments using stimuli-responsive polymers and may play an important role in living systems. (C) 2022 The Society of Rheology.

JTD Keywords: Coil-globule transition, Constitutive equation, Dilute-solutions, Dumbbell model, Dynamics, Macromolecules, Nonequilibrium thermodynamics, Polyelectrolytes, Polymer migration, Polymer phase separation, Polymers, Predictions, Rheology, Shear-induced phase separation, Solute-polymer interactions, Stress, Viscoelasticity


Tejo-Otero A, Fenollosa-Artés F, Achaerandio I, Rey-Vinolas S, Buj-Corral I, Mateos-Timoneda MÁ, Engel E, (2022). Soft-Tissue-Mimicking Using Hydrogels for the Development of Phantoms Gels 8, 40

With the currently available materials and technologies it is difficult to mimic the mechanical properties of soft living tissues. Additionally, another significant problem is the lack of information about the mechanical properties of these tissues. Alternatively, the use of phantoms offers a promising solution to simulate biological bodies. For this reason, to advance in the state-of-the-art a wide range of organs (e.g., liver, heart, kidney as well as brain) and hydrogels (e.g., agarose, polyvinyl alcohol –PVA–, Phytagel –PHY– and methacrylate gelatine –GelMA–) were tested regarding their mechanical properties. For that, viscoelastic behavior, hardness, as well as a non-linear elastic mechanical response were measured. It was seen that there was a significant difference among the results for the different mentioned soft tissues. Some of them appear to be more elastic than viscous as well as being softer or harder. With all this information in mind, a correlation between the mechanical properties of the organs and the different materials was performed. The next conclusions were drawn: (1) to mimic the liver, the best material is 1% wt agarose; (2) to mimic the heart, the best material is 2% wt agarose; (3) to mimic the kidney, the best material is 4% wt GelMA; and (4) to mimic the brain, the best materials are 4% wt GelMA and 1% wt agarose. Neither PVA nor PHY was selected to mimic any of the studied tissues. © 2022 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

JTD Keywords: brain, composite hydrogel, elastography, hardness, hydrogels, in-vitro, liver, materials, mechanical-properties, mimicking, soft tissues, tissue scaffolding, viscoelasticity, warner-braztler shear test, Dynamic mechanical analysis, Hardness, Hydrogels, Materials, Mimicking, Soft tissues, Tissue scaffolding, Viscoelastic characterization, Viscoelasticity, Warner–braztler shear test


Júnior C, Narciso M, Marhuenda E, Almendros I, Farré R, Navajas D, Otero J, Gavara N, (2021). Baseline stiffness modulates the non-linear response to stretch of the extracellular matrix in pulmonary fibrosis International Journal Of Molecular Sciences 22, 12928

Pulmonary fibrosis (PF) is a progressive disease that disrupts the mechanical homeostasis of the lung extracellular matrix (ECM). These effects are particularly relevant in the lung context, given the dynamic nature of cyclic stretch that the ECM is continuously subjected to during breathing. This work uses an in vivo model of pulmonary fibrosis to characterize the macro-and micromechanical properties of lung ECM subjected to stretch. To that aim, we have compared the micromechanical properties of fibrotic ECM in baseline and under stretch conditions, using a novel combination of Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) and a stretchable membrane-based chip. At the macroscale, fibrotic ECM displayed strain-hardening, with a stiffness one order of magnitude higher than its healthy counterpart. Conversely, at the microscale, we found a switch in the stretch-induced mechanical behaviour of the lung ECM from strain-hardening at physiological ECM stiffnesses to strain-softening at fibrotic ECM stiffnesses. Similarly, we observed solidification of healthy ECM versus fluidization of fibrotic ECM in response to stretch. Our results suggest that the mechanical behaviour of fibrotic ECM under stretch involves a potential built-in mechanotransduction mechanism that may slow down the progression of PF by steering resident fibroblasts away from a pro-fibrotic profile. © 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

JTD Keywords: atomic force microscopy, extracellular matrix, fibrosis, mechanics, mechanosensing, strain, system, viscoelasticity, Atomic force microscopy, Extracellular matrix, Fibrosis, Lung fibrosis, Mechanosensing


Elosegui-Artola A, (2021). The extracellular matrix viscoelasticity as a regulator of cell and tissue dynamics Current Opinion In Cell Biology 72, 10-18

The extracellular matrix mechanical properties regulate processes in development, cancer, and fibrosis. Among the distinct mechanical properties, the vast majority of research has focused on the extracellular matrix's elasticity as the primary determinant of cell and tissue behavior. However, both cells and the extracellular matrix are not only elastic but also viscous. Despite viscoelasticity being a universal feature of living tissues, our knowledge of the influence of the extracellular matrix's viscoelasticity in cell behavior is limited. This mini-review describes some of the recent findings that have highlighted the role of the extracellular matrix's viscoelasticity in cell and tissue dynamics.

JTD Keywords: behavior, cell adhesion, cell mechanics, cell migration, deformability, extracellular matrix, extracellular matrix mechanics, fluidity, forces, hydrogels, mechanobiology, mechanotransduction, tissue mechanics, viscoelasticity, viscosity, Cell adhesion, Cell mechanics, Cell migration, Extracellular matrix, Extracellular matrix mechanics, Fluidity, Mechanobiology, Mechanotransduction, Migration, Tissue mechanics, Viscoelasticity, Viscosity


Asadipour, N., Trepat, X., Muñoz, J. J., (2016). Porous-based rheological model for tissue fluidisation Journal of the Mechanics and Physics of Solids 96, 535-549

It has been experimentally observed that cells exhibit a fluidisation process when subjected to a transient stretch, with an eventual recovery of the mechanical properties upon removal of the applied deformation. This fluidisation process is characterised by a decrease of the storage modulus and an increase of the phase angle. We propose a rheological model which is able to reproduce this combined mechanical response. The model is described in the context of continua and adapted to a cell-centred particle system that simulates cell–cell interactions. Mechanical equilibrium is coupled with two evolution laws: (i) one for the reference configuration, and (ii) another for the porosity or polymer density. The first law depends on the actual strain of the tissue, while the second assumes different remodelling rates during porosity increase and decrease. The theory is implemented on a particle based model and tested on a stretching experiment. The numerical results agree with the experimental measurements for different stretching magnitudes.

JTD Keywords: Cell remodelling, Cell rheology, Fluidisation, Softening, Viscoelasticity


Andreu, I., Luque, T., Sancho, A., Pelacho, B., Iglesias-García, O., Melo, E., Farré, R., Prósper, F., Elizalde, M. R., Navajas, D., (2014). Heterogeneous micromechanical properties of the extracellular matrix in healthy and infarcted hearts Acta Biomaterialia 10, (7), 3235-3242

Infarcted hearts are macroscopically stiffer than healthy organs. Nevertheless, although cell behavior is mediated by the physical features of the cell niche, the intrinsic micromechanical properties of healthy and infarcted heart extracellular matrix (ECM) remain poorly characterized. Using atomic force microscopy, we studied ECM micromechanics of different histological regions of the left ventricle wall of healthy and infarcted mice. Hearts excised from healthy (n = 8) and infarcted mice (n = 8) were decellularized with sodium dodecyl sulfate and cut into 12 μm thick slices. Healthy ventricular ECM revealed marked mechanical heterogeneity across histological regions of the ventricular wall with the effective Young's modulus ranging from 30.2 ± 2.8 to 74.5 ± 8.7 kPa in collagen- and elastin-rich regions of the myocardium, respectively. Infarcted ECM showed a predominant collagen composition and was 3-fold stiffer than collagen-rich regions of the healthy myocardium. ECM of both healthy and infarcted hearts exhibited a solid-like viscoelastic behavior that conforms to two power-law rheology. Knowledge of intrinsic micromechanical properties of the ECM at the length scale at which cells sense their environment will provide further insight into the cell-scaffold interplay in healthy and infarcted hearts.

JTD Keywords: Atomic force microscopy, Extracellular matrix, Heart scaffold, Nanoindentation, Viscoelasticity


Muñoz, J. J., Conte, V., Asadipour, N., Miodownik, M., (2013). A truss element for modelling reversible softening in living tissues Mechanics Research Communications , 49, 44-49

We resort to non-linear viscoelasticity to develop a truss element able to model reversible softening in lung epithelial tissues undergoing transient stretch. Such a Maxwell truss element is built by resorting to a three-noded element whose mid-node is kinematically constrained to remain on the line connecting the end-nodes. The whole mechanical system undergoes an additive decomposition of the strains along the truss direction where the total contribution of the mid-node is accounted for by using a null-space projection and static condensation techniques. Assembling of such line-elements in 3D networks allows us to model extended regions of living tissues as well as their anisotropies.

JTD Keywords: Maxwell, Null-space, Reversible softening, Truss, Viscoelasticity