Biological connective tissues exhibit viscoelastic and poroelastic behavior at different frequency regimes: Application to tendon and skin biophysics

Acta Biomater. 2018 Apr 1:70:249-259. doi: 10.1016/j.actbio.2018.01.041. Epub 2018 Feb 7.


In this study, a poroviscoelastic finite element model (FEM) was developed and used in conjunction with an AFM-based wide-bandwidth nanorheology system to predict the frequency-dependent mechanical behavior of tendon and dermis subjected to compression via nanoindentation. The aim was to distinguish between loading rates that are dominated by either poroelasticity, viscoelasticity, or the superposition of these processes. Using spherical probe tips having different radii, the force and tip displacement were measured and the magnitude, E, and phase angle, ϕ, of the dynamic complex modulus were evaluated for mouse supraspinatus tendon and mouse dermis. The peak frequencies of the phase angle were associated with the characteristic time constants of poroelastic and viscoelastic material behavior. The developed FE model could predict the separate poroelastic and viscoelastic responses of these soft tissues over a 4 decade frequency range, showing good agreement with experimental results. We observed that poroelasticity was the dominant energy dissipation mechanism for mouse dermis and supraspinatus tendon at higher indentation frequencies (102 to 104 Hz) whereas viscoelasticity was typically dominant at lower frequencies (<102 Hz). These findings show the underlying mechanical behavior of biological connective tissues and give insight into the role played by these different energy dissipation mechanisms in governing the function of these tissues at nanoscale.

Statement of significance: Soft biological tissues exhibit complex, load- and time-dependent mechanical behavior. Evaluating their mechanical behavior requires sophisticated experimental tools and numerical models that can capture the fundamental mechanisms governing tissue function. Using an Atomic-force-microscopy-based rheology system and finite element models, the roles of the two most dominant time-dependent mechanisms (poroelasticity and viscoelasticity) that govern the dynamic loading behavior of mouse skin and tendon have been investigated. FE models were able to predict and quantify the contribution of each mechanism to the overall dynamic response and confirming the presence of these two distinct mechanisms in the mechanical response. Overall, these results provide novel insight into the viscoelastic and poroelastic properties of mouse skin and tendon and promote better understanding of the underlying origins of each mechanism.

Keywords: AFM; Finite element analysis; Poroelasticity; Skin dermis; Tendon; Viscoelasticity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biophysical Phenomena*
  • Elasticity / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological*
  • Skin Physiological Phenomena*
  • Skin*