An experimental and theoretical study on the anisotropy of elastin network

Ann Biomed Eng. 2009 Aug;37(8):1572-83. doi: 10.1007/s10439-009-9724-z. Epub 2009 May 30.


The mechanical properties of elastin network from bovine thoracic aorta under biaxial tensile loading were studied both experimentally and theoretically. Histology and scanning electron microscopy were performed to verify the removal of cells, collagen, and other extracellular matrix components. Equi- and nonequi-biaxial tests were performed to study the effect of different loading conditions on the stress-strain responses of the elastin network. The mechanical properties of different elastin sections along the thoracic aorta were examined and studied to understand the anisotropy of elastin along the whole artery. Biaxial tensile test data comparing elastin vs. intact aorta showed that elastin is mainly responsible for the linear elastic response of the arterial wall at lower strains. Experimental results revealed that elastin network possesses significant anisotropic mechanical properties with the circumferential direction being stiffer than the longitudinal direction. The mechanical properties of elastin vary significantly along the thoracic aorta, with the thin section appearing to have the highest tangent modulus. Biological assay results indicate that elastin content is about the same along the thoracic aorta. The mechanical behavior of elastin network was well captured by the eight-chain statistical mechanics based microstructural model. Material parameters obtained from the equi-biaxial test were able to predict the stress-strain responses of elastin network under arbitrary nonequi-biaxial loading conditions. Also, by varying material parameters in the model, the changes in microstructure such as elastin fiber orientation and cross-linking density on the macroscopic mechanical properties of elastin network were discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anisotropy
  • Aorta, Thoracic / chemistry
  • Aorta, Thoracic / physiology*
  • Cattle
  • Elastin / chemistry
  • Elastin / metabolism*
  • Extracellular Matrix / chemistry
  • Extracellular Matrix / metabolism*
  • Models, Biological*


  • Elastin