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Title: Combined numerical and experimental biomechanical characterization of soft collagen hydrogel substrate
Authors: Castro, A. P. G.
Laity, p.
Shariotzadeh, M.
Wittkowske, C.
Holland, C.
Lacroix, D.
Keywords: Materials engineering
Hydrated collagen hydrogels
Issue Date: Feb-2016
Publisher: Journal of Materials Science
Citation: Castro, A.P.G. et al. (2016). Combined numerical and experimental biomechanical characterization of soft collagen hydrogel substrate. Journal of Materials Science 27(79).
Abstract: Abstract This work presents a combined experimental– numerical framework for the biomechanical characterization of highly hydrated collagen hydrogels, namely with 0.20, 0.30 and 0.40 % (by weight) of collagen concentration. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the extracellular matrix of animals and humans. Its intrinsic biocompatibility makes collagen a promising substrate for embedding cells within a highly hydrated environment mimicking natural soft tissues. Cell behaviour is greatly influenced by the mechanical properties of the surrounding matrix, but the biomechanical characterization of collagen hydrogels has been challenging up to now, since they present non-linear poro-viscoelastic properties. Combining the stiffness outcomes from rheological experiments with relevant literature data on collagen permeability, poroelastic finite element (FE) models were developed. Comparison between experimental confined compression tests available in the literature and analogous FE stress relaxation curves showed a close agreement throughout the tests. This framework allowed establishing that the dynamic shear modulus of the collagen hydrogels is between 0.0097 ± 0.018 kPa for the 0.20 % concentration and 0.0601 ± 0.044 kPa for the 0.40 % concentration. The Poisson’s ratio values for such conditions lie within the range of 0.495–0.485 for 0.20 % and 0.480–0.470 for 0.40 %, respectively, showing that rheology is sensitive enough to detect these small changes in collagen concentration and thus allowing to link rheology results with the confined compression tests. In conclusion, this integrated approach allows for accurate constitutive modelling of collagen hydrogels. This framework sets the grounds for the characterization of related hydrogels and to the use of this collagen parameterization in more complex multiscale models.
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