A tissue adaptation model based on strain-dependent collagen degradation and contact-guided cell traction

T.A.M. Heck, W. Wilson, J. Foolen, A.C. Cilingir, K. Ito, C.C. Donkelaar, van

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Soft biological tissues adapt their collagen network to the mechanical environment. Collagen remodeling and cell traction are both involved in this process. The present study presents a collagen adaptation model which includes strain-dependent collagen degradation and contact-guided cell traction. Cell traction is determined by the prevailing collagen structure and is assumed to strive for tensional homeostasis. In addition, collagen is assumed to mechanically fail if it is over-strained. Care is taken to use principally measurable and physiologically meaningful relationships. This model is implemented in a fibril-reinforced biphasic finite element model for soft hydrated tissues. The versatility and limitations of the model are demonstrated by corroborating the predicted transient and equilibrium collagen adaptation under distinct mechanical constraints against experimental observations from the literature. These experiments include overloading of pericardium explants until failure, static uniaxial and biaxial loading of cell-seeded gels in vitro and shortening of periosteum explants. In addition, remodeling under hypothetical conditions is explored to demonstrate how collagen might adapt to small differences in constraints. Typical aspects of all essentially different experimental conditions are captured quantitatively or qualitatively. Differences between predictions and experiments as well as new insights that emerge from the present simulations are discussed. This model is anticipated to evolve into a mechanistic description of collagen adaptation, which may assist in developing load-regimes for functional tissue engineered constructs, or may be employed to improve our understanding of the mechanisms behind physiological and pathological collagen remodeling.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)823-831
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Biomechanics
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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