Numerical algorithms to predict cellular traction forces


Recent developments in heart valve tissue engineering have heightened the need for understanding and controlling cellular traction forces. Contractile cells are known to exert forces to their surroundings along the direction of actin stress fibers, which are acto-myosin bundles present in this kind of cells. These forces can possibly lead to unwanted leaflet retraction, with consequent valvular regurgitation. On the other hand, they can also influence the architecture of collagen fibers, which are very important for the mechanical properties and functionality of tissue-engineered heart valves. For these reasons, numerous computational models have been proposed to predict the remodeling of stress fibers, quantify their exerted stress, and ultimately determine its effects on the collagen fiber architecture and tissue-engineered constructs (Loerakker et al. 2014, Obbink-Huizer et al. 2014). However, coupling computational models for stress fiber and collagen remodeling can lead to excessive computational costs to run the simulations. Recently, a numerical algorithm has been proposed to efficiently perform this coupling (Ristori et al. 2016). This numerical algorithm enabled the simulation of tissue-engineered heart valves when exposed to cyclic mechanical stimuli (Loerakker et al. 2016). Nevertheless, the relationship between the parameters characterizing the remodeling and the performance of the numerical algorithm has not been studied yet.

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