The microstructural deformation-mechanical loading relation of the blood vessel wall is essential for understanding the overall mechanical behavior of vascular tissue in health and disease. We employed simultaneous mechanical loading-imaging to quantify in situ deformation of individual collagen and elastin fibers on unstained fresh porcine coronary adventitia under a combination of vessel inflation and axial extension loading. Specifically, the specimens were imaged under biaxial loads to study microscopic deformation-loading behavior of fibers in conjunction with morphometric measurements at the zero-stress state. Collagen fibers largely orientate in the longitudinal direction, while elastin fibers have major orientation parallel to collagen, but with additional orientation angles in each sublayer of the adventitia. With an increase of biaxial load, collagen fibers were uniformly stretched to the loading direction, while elastin fibers gradually formed a network in sublayers, which strongly depended on the initial arrangement. The waviness of collagen decreased more rapidly at a circumferential stretch ratio of λθ = 1.0 than at λθ = 1.5, while most collagen became straightened at λθ = 1.8. These microscopic deformations imply that the longitudinally stiffer adventitia is a direct result of initial fiber alignment, and the overall mechanical behavior of the tissue is highly dependent on the corresponding microscopic deformation of fibers. The microstructural deformation-loading relation will serve as a foundation for micromechanical models of the vessel wall.
Keywords: adventitia; collagen; deformation; elastin; microstructure; multiphoton microscopy.