Cellular Microbiaxial Stretching to Measure a Single-Cell Strain Energy Density Function

Zaw Win, Justin M. Buksa, Kerianne E. Steucke, G. W. Gant Luxton, Victor H. Barocas, Patrick W. Alford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


The stress in a cell due to extracellular mechanical stimulus is determined by its mechanical properties, and the structural organization of many adherent cells suggests that their properties are anisotropic. This anisotropy may significantly influence the cells' mechanotransductive response to complex loads, and has important implications for development of accurate models of tissue biomechanics. Standard methods for measuring cellular mechanics report linear moduli that cannot capture large-deformation anisotropic properties, which in a continuum mechanics framework are best described by a strain energy density function (SED). In tissues, the SED is most robustly measured using biaxial testing. Here, we describe a cellular microbiaxial stretching (ClBS) method that modifies this tissue-scale approach to measure the anisotropic elastic behavior of individual vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) with nativelike cytoarchitecture. Using ClBS, we reveal that VSMCs are highly anisotropic under large deformations. We then characterize a Holzapfel-Gasser-Ogden type SED for individual VSMCs and find that architecture-dependent properties of the cells can be robustly described using a formulation solely based on the organization of their actin cytoskeleton. These results suggest that cellular anisotropy should be considered when developing biomechanical models, and could play an important role in cellular mechano-adaptation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number071006
JournalJournal of biomechanical engineering
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2017 by ASME.

Copyright 2017 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Cellular Microbiaxial Stretching to Measure a Single-Cell Strain Energy Density Function'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this