Elucidation of extracellular matrix mechanics from muscle fibers and fiber bundles

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Entry by Angelo Mao, AP 225, Fall 2010

Title: Elucidation of extracellular matrix mechanics from muscle fibers and fiber bundles

Authors: Gretchen A. Meyer, Richard L. Lieber

Journal: Journal of Biomechanics

Year: 2010


The researchers invent and apply a novel method for testing the mechanical properties of muscle fibers and their surrounding extracellular matrix. They were able to conclude from measuring the quadratic moduli that the moduli of fibers was linear, while the modulus of the extracellular matrix was nonlinear.

soft matter keywords: elastic modulus, extracellular matrix

Methods and Results

Figure 1. Green represents experimental data, dashed line is possible ECM, and thick blue line is composite data.

Attempts to determine the elastic modulus (or quadratic modulus, as it seems to be referred to in the paper) of muscles and its respective components, especially the extracellular matrix, were complicated by the difficulty in completely digesting away the muscle cells so that the remaining matrix structure could be mechanically tested. The effects of digestion on matrix mechanical properties were also obstacles. The authors developed a method of removing the extracellular matrix from the muscle bundles instead of removing the muscle cells. This left behind fibers that, in principle, by comparing to unmodified muscle bundles, could reveal the contribution of the extracellular matrix.

The equation the researchers used for calculating the modulus is as follows:

<math>E_m = \frac{E_c - E_f(1-A_m)}{A_m}</math>

in which <math>E_m</math> is the module for the extracellular matrix, <math>E_f</math> is the module for the fiber, and <math>A_m</math> is the cross-sectional area.

Figure 1 shows the results of measuring individual fibers (green), which have had the extracellular matrix removed. Because the net quadratic modulus is nonlinear, the researchers posited that this is due to a nonlinear component from the extracellular matrix (1A), or from the syncopated arrangement of individual fibers (1B).