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Confined compression of collagen hydrogels

Busby, Grahame A. and Grant, M. Helen and MacKay, Simon P. and Riches, Philip E. (2013) Confined compression of collagen hydrogels. Journal of Biomechanics, 46 (4). pp. 837-840. ISSN 0021-9290

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Reconstituted collagen hydrogels are often used for in vitro studies of cell-matrix interaction and as scaffolds for tissue engineering. Understanding the mechanical and transport behaviours of collagen hydrogels is therefore extremely important, albeit difficult due to their very high water content (typically > 99.5%). In the present study the mechanical behaviour of collagen hydrogels in confined compression was investigated using biphasic theory (J. Biomech. Eng. 102 (1980) 73), to ascertain whether the technique is sufficiently sensitive to determine differences in the characteristics of hydrogels of between 0.2% and 0.4% collagen. Peak stress, equilibrium stress, aggregate modulus and hydraulic permeability of the hydrogels exhibited sensitivity to collagen content, demonstrating that the technique is clearly able to discriminate between hydrogels with small differences in collagen content and may also be sensitive to factors that affect matrix remodelling. The results also offer additional insight into the deformation-dependent permeability of collagen hydrogels. This study suggests that confined compression, together with biphasic theory, is a suitable technique for assessing the mechanical properties of collagen hydrogels.