Heterogeneous structure and surface tension effects on mechanical response in pulmonary acinus: A finite element analysis.

Research paper by Kenichiro K Koshiyama, Keisuke K Nishimoto, Satoshi S Ii, Toshihiro T Sera, Shigeo S Wada

Indexed on: 27 Jan '18Published on: 27 Jan '18Published in: Clinical Biomechanics


The pulmonary acinus is a dead-end microstructure that consists of ducts and alveoli. High-resolution micro-CT imaging has recently provided detailed anatomical information of a complete in vivo acinus, but relating its mechanical response with its detailed acinar structure remains challenging. This study aimed to investigate the mechanical response of acinar tissue in a whole acinus for static inflation using computational approaches.We performed finite element analysis of a whole acinus for static inflation. The acinar structure model was generated based on micro-CT images of an intact acinus. A continuum mechanics model of the lung parenchyma was used for acinar tissue material model, and surface tension effects were explicitly included. An anisotropic mechanical field analysis based on a stretch tensor was combined with a curvature-based local structure analysis.The airspace of the acinus exhibited nonspherical deformation as a result of the anisotropic deformation of acinar tissue. A strain hotspot occurred at the ridge-shaped region caused by a rod-like deformation of acinar tissue on the ridge. The local structure becomes bowl-shaped for inflation and, without surface tension effects, the surface of the bowl-shaped region primarily experiences isotropic deformation. Surface tension effects suppressed the increase in airspace volume and inner surface area, while facilitating anisotropic deformation on the alveolar surface.In the lungs, the heterogeneous acinar structure and surface tension induce anisotropic deformation at the acinar and alveolar scales. Further research is needed on structural variation of acini, inter-acini connectivity, or dynamic behavior to understand multiscale lung mechanics.