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

Samuel V Jett, Luke T Hudson, Ryan Baumwart, Bradley N Bohnstedt, Arshid Mir, Harold M Burkhart, Gerhard A Holzapfel, Yi Wu, Chung-Hao Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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. STATEMENT OF SIGNIFICANCE: In this study, a novel quantitative opto-mechanical system was developed by combining a polarized Spatial Frequency Domain Imaging (pSFDI) device with a biaxial mechanical tester. The integrated system was used to quantify the load-dependent collagen fiber microstructures in representative tendon and mitral valve anterior leaflet (MVAL) tissues. Our results revealed that MVAL's fiber architectures exhibited load-dependent spatial and transmural heterogeneities, suggesting further microstructural complexity than previously reported in heart valve tissues. These novel findings were possible through the system's ability to, for the first time, capture the load-dependent collagen architecture in the mitral valve anterior leaflet tissue over a wide field of view (e.g., 10 × 10 mm for the MVAL tissue specimens). Such capabilities afford unique future opportunities to improve patient outcomes through concurrent mechanical and microstructural assessments of healthy and diseased tissues in conditions such as heart valve regurgitation and calcification.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)149-168
Number of pages20
JournalActa Biomaterialia
Issue number102
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2020


  • Biaxial loading
  • Collagen fiber architecture
  • Heart valve
  • Load-dependence
  • Microstructure
  • Polarization imaging
  • Quantitative optical technique

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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