Dynamic remodeling of fiber networks with stiff inclusions under compressive loading

Bobby Carroll, Minh Tri Ho Thanh, Alison E. Patteson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The ability of tissues to sustain and withstand mechanical stress is critical to tissue development and healthy tissue maintenance. The mechanical properties of tissues are typically considered to be dominated by the fibrous extracellular matrix (ECM) component of tissues. Fiber network mechanics can capture certain mechanical features of tissues, such as shear strain stiffening, but is insufficient in describing the compressive response of certain tissues and blood clots that are rich in extracellular matrix. To understand the mechanical response of tissues, we employ a contemporary mechanical model, a fibrous network of fibrin embedded with inert bead inclusions that preserve the volume-conserving constraints of cells in tissues. Combining bulk mechanical rheology and a custom imaging device, we show that the presence of inclusions alters the local dynamic remodeling of the networks undergoing uniaxial compressive strains and demonstrate non-affine correlated motion within a fiber-bead network, predicted to stretch fibers in the network and lead to the ability of the network to stiffen under compression, a key feature of real tissues. These findings have important implications for understanding how local structural properties of cells and ECM fibers impact the bulk mechanical response of real tissues. Statement of significance: To understand why real tissue stiffens under compression, we study a model tissue system which also stiffens: a fibrin network embedded with stiff beads. We design a device that images compression of both fiber and fiber-bead networks. Distinct from previous imaging studies, this setup can dynamically capture network deformation on scales larger than single fibers. From the videos, we see fluid flow and network remodeling are both critical to compression behavior. The fiber-bead network has faster fluid flow, reduced network recovery, and correlated motion during network relaxation. We hypothesize that the beads hinder network relaxation of stretched fibers, thus retaining the applied stress and exhibiting stiffening. Our findings reveal important details for modeling tissue mechanics towards optimizing healthcare.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)106-116
Number of pages11
JournalActa Biomaterialia
StatePublished - Jun 2023


  • Compression stiffening of tissues
  • Dynamic compression behavior
  • Fiber networks with stiff inclusions
  • Network remodeling at the mesoscale
  • Poro-elasticity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biomaterials
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Molecular Biology


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