Integration of polarized spatial frequency domain imaging (pSFDI) with a biaxial mechanical testing system for quantification of load-dependent collagen architecture in soft collagenous tissues
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionActa Biomaterialia. 2020, 102 149-168. 10.1016/j.actbio.2019.11.028
Collagen fiber networks provide the structural strength of tissues, such as tendons, skin and arteries. Quantifying the fiber architecture in response to mechanical loads is essential towards a better understanding of the tissue-level mechanical behaviors, especially in assessing disease-driven functional changes. To enable novel investigations into these load-dependent fiber structures, a polarized spatial frequency domain imaging (pSFDI) device was developed and, for the first time, integrated with a biaxial mechanical testing system. The integrated instrument is capable of a wide-field quantification of the fiber orientation and the degree of optical anisotropy (DOA), representing the local degree of fiber alignment. The opto-mechanical instrument''s performance was assessed through uniaxial loading on tendon tissues with known collagen fiber microstructures. Our results revealed that the bulk fiber orientation angle of the tendon tissue changed minimally with loading (median ± 0.5*IQR of 52.7° ± 3.3° and 51.9° ± 3.3° under 0 and 3% longitudinal strains, respectively), whereas on a micro-scale, the fibers became better aligned with the direction of loading: the DOA (mean ± SD) increased from 0.149 ± 0.032 to 0.198 ± 0.056 under 0 and 3% longitudinal strains, respectively, p < 0.001. The integrated instrument was further applied to study two representative mitral valve anterior leaflet (MVAL) tissues subjected to various biaxial loads. The fiber orientations within these representative MVAL tissue specimens demonstrated noticeable heterogeneity, with the local fiber orientations dependent upon the sample, the spatial and transmural locations, and the applied loading. Our results also showed that fibers were generally better aligned under equibiaxial (DOA = 0.089 ± 0.036) and circumferentially-dominant loading (DOA = 0.086 ± 0.037) than under the radially-dominant loading (DOA = 0.077 ± 0.034), indicating circumferential predisposition. These novel findings exemplify a deeper understanding of the load-dependent collagen fiber microstructures obtained through the use of the integrated opto-mechanical instrument.