Confined compression of a tissue-equivalent: Collagen fibril and cell alignment in response to anisotropic strain

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A method to impose and measure a one dimensional strain field via confined compression of a tissue-equivalent and measure the resulting cell and collagen fibril alignment was developed. Strain was determined locally by the displacement of polystyrene beads dispersed and entrapped within the network of collagen fibrils along with the cells, and it was correlated to the spatial variation of collagen network birefringence and concentration. Alignment of fibroblasts and smooth muscle cells was determined based on the long axis of elongated cells. Cell and collagen network alignment were observed normal to the direction of compression after a step strain and increased monotonically up to 50% strain. These results were independent of time after straining over 24 hr despite continued cell motility after responding instantly to the step strain with a change in alignment by deforming/convecting with the strained network. Since the time course of cell alignment followed that of strain and not stress which, due to the viscoelastic fluid-like nature of the network relaxes completely within the observation period, these results imply cell alignment in a compacting tissue-equivalent is due to fibril alignment associated with anisotropic network strain. Estimation of a contact guidance sensitivity parameter indicates that both cell types align to a greater extent than the surrounding fibrils.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)568-575
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of biomechanical engineering
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2002


  • Cell alignment
  • Collagen gel
  • Confined compression
  • Contact guidance
  • Fiber alignment
  • Fibroblast
  • Smooth muscle cell
  • Tissue-equivalent


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