The Mechanical Characterization of Tissues and Materials Laboratory is dedicated to developing new analytical frameworks and experimental methods for the analysis of soft tissues and biomaterials.
In 2011, it was reported that since the late 1980’s over $5B had been invested in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine (1). The following year it was reported that there were over 100 companies (a three-fold growth since 2008) in the tissue engineering industry generating $3.6B in sales (2). A PubMed search of the term “tissue engineering” conducted at the time of this writing produced over 74,000 hits. Yet according to the NIH NIBIB Fact Sheet on Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine published in July 2013 “Currently, tissue engineering plays a relatively small role in patient treatment.” In consideration of the resources expended and extensive activity in the field, viable tissue-engineering based clinical solutions are conspicuously limited.
A variety of experiments has been performed to obtain the mechanical properties of biological tissue and tissue-engineered constructs in all relevant deformation. Uniaxial studies have been widely utilized to determine the mechanical properties of soft biological tissues and tissue engineered constructs since it is convenient to control the boundary condition in one dimension. This material testing method was founded from linear-elasticity theorems and was originally conceived to investigate the mechanical properties of isotropic, linearly-elastic materials under small deformations. However, biologic tissues are inhomogeneous, anisotropic, non-linear materials that typically undergo large deformations and are often subjected to complex multi-axial loading conditions in vitro. Thus, biaxial testing methods are proposed to mimic the physiological-loading state to fully understand the mechanical behavior of the tissues.