The study of the mechanical properties of embryonic tissues has become an area of increasing need as more relationships between structure and function are discovered. However, there are no appropriate tools currently available to study mechanical properties of soft, millimeter-scale structures. Here, we present work on a micro-scale compression optical coherence elastography (C-OCE) system which can make quantitative measurements of the mechanical properties of small biological tissues. Inspired by "sensor" C-OCE, in which a hydrogel is laid over the sample of interest to calibrate the deformation, here we fully embed a small sample in hydrogel, then apply compressive or tensile force. Meanwhile, a phase-stable optical coherence tomography (OCT) system images the sample. Nanometer-scale displacements are extracted from the phase signal and used to generate a cross-sectional strain map. The strain map is then interpreted to provide information about the absolute mechanical properties of the sample at micron-level resolution.
To date, we have demonstrated sensitivity to 20 kPa differences in Young's modulus in soft gelatin phantoms. Additionally, we have used this method to measure the mechanical properties of de-lamination of endocardial cushions as they develop into cardiac valves in quail embryos. Further work will include 3D property characterizations, use of finite element modeling to calculate absolute mechanical properties of complex structures, and deeper investigation into the role of mechanics during valvulogenesis and other developmental processes.
Brecken J. Blackburn, Shi Gu, Michael W. Jenkins, and Andrew M. Rollins, "Compression optical coherence elastography for micro-scale embryonic tissues (Conference Presentation)," Proc. SPIE 10472, Diagnosis and Treatment of Diseases in the Breast and Reproductive System IV, 104720M (Presented at SPIE BiOS: January 28, 2018; Published: 14 March 2018); https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2290653.5751463163001.
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