Morpho-mechanics of human collagen superstructures revealed by all-optical correlative micro-spectroscopies

Commun Biol. 2019 Mar 26:2:117. doi: 10.1038/s42003-019-0357-y. eCollection 2019.


In every biological tissue, morphological and topological properties strongly affect its mechanical features and behaviour, so that ultrastructure, composition and mechanical parameters are intimately connected. Overall, it is their correct interplay that guarantees the tissue functionality. The development of experimental methods able to correlate these properties would open new opportunities both in the biological and the biomedical fields. Here, we report a correlative study intended to map supramolecular morphology, biochemical composition and viscoelastic parameters of collagen by all-optical microscopies. In particular, using human corneal tissue as a benchmark, we correlate Second-Harmonic Generation maps with mechanical and biochemical imaging obtained by Brillouin and Raman micro-spectroscopy. The study highlights how subtle variations in supramolecular organization originate the peculiar mechanical behavior of different subtypes of corneal lamellae. The presented methodology paves the way to the non-invasive assessment of tissue morpho-mechanics in biological as well as synthetic materials.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Collagen / chemistry*
  • Elastic Modulus / physiology
  • Elasticity / physiology
  • Epithelium, Corneal / diagnostic imaging*
  • Humans
  • Microscopy, Confocal / methods*
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Spectrum Analysis, Raman / methods*
  • Viscoelastic Substances / chemistry
  • Viscosity


  • Viscoelastic Substances
  • Collagen