Development of a mechanical testing assay for fibrotic murine liver.


In this article, a novel protocol for mechanical testing, combined with finite element modeling, is presented that allows the determination of the elastic modulus of normal and fibrotic murine livers and is compared to an independent mechanical testing method. The novel protocol employs suspending a portion of murine liver tissue in a cylindrical polyacrylamide gel, imaging with a microCT, conducting mechanical testing, and concluding with a mechanical property determination via a finite element method analysis. More specifically, the finite element model is built from the computerized tomography (CT) images, and boundary conditions are imposed in order to simulate the mechanical testing conditions. The resulting model surface stress is compared to that obtained during mechanical testing, which subsequently allows for direct evaluation of the liver modulus. The second comparison method involves a mechanical indentation test performed on a remaining liver lobe for comparison. In addition, this lobe is used for histological analysis to determine relationships between elasticity measurements and tissue health. This complete system was used to study 14 fibrotic livers displaying advanced fibrosis (injections with irritant), three control livers (injections without irritant), and three normal livers (no injections). The moduli evaluations for nondiseased livers were estimated as 0.62 +/- 0.09 kPa and 0.59 +/- 0.1 kPa for indenter and model-gel-tissue (MGT) assay tests, respectively. Moduli estimates for diseased liver ranged from 0.6-1.64 kPa and 0.96-1.88 kPa for indenter and MGT assay tests, respectively. The MGT modulus, though not equivalent to the modulus determined by indentation, demonstrates a high correlation, thus indicating a relationship between the two testing methods. The results also showed a clear difference between nondiseased and diseased livers. The developed MGT assay system is quite compact and could easily be utilized for controlled evaluation of soft-tissue moduli as shown here. In addition, future work will add the correlative method of elastography such that direct controlled validation of measurement on tissue can be determined.