Multiscale Mechanical Integrity of Human Supraspinatus Tendon in Shear after Elastin Depletion

Research paper by Fei Fang, Spencer P. Lake

Indexed on: 09 Jul '16Published on: 07 Jul '16Published in: Journal of the Mechanical Behavior of Biomedical Materials


Human supraspinatus tendon (SST) exhibits region-specific nonlinear mechanical properties under tension, which have been attributed to its complex multiaxial physiological loading environment. However, the mechanical response and underlying multiscale mechanism regulating supraspinatus tendon behavior under other loading scenarios are poorly understood. Furthermore, little is known about the contribution of elastin to tendon mechanics. We hypothesized that (1) SST exhibits region-specific shear mechanical properties, (2) fiber sliding is the predominant mode of local matrix deformation in SST in shear, and (3) elastin helps maintain SST mechanical integrity by facilitating force transfer among collagen fibers. Through the use of biomechanical testing and multiphoton microscopy, we measured the multiscale mechanical behavior of human SST in shear before and after elastase treatment. Three distinct SST regions showed similar stresses and local matrix strains. Collagen fiber reorganization and sliding were physical mechanisms observed as the SST response to shear loading. Values of local-matrix strain were highly variable, likely due to a high degree of extracellular matrix heterogeneity. After elastase treatment, tendon exhibited significantly decreased stresses under shear loading, particularly at low strains. These results show that elastin contributes to tendon mechanics in shear, further complementing our understanding of multiscale tendon structure-function relationships.