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Abstract: Collagen is the most abundant extracellular-network-forming protein in animalbiology and is important in both natural and artificial tissues, where itserves as a material of great mechanical versatility. This versatility arisesfrom its almost unique ability to remodel under applied loads into anisotropicand inhomogeneous structures. To explore the origins of this property, wedevelop a set of analysis tools and a novel experimental setup that probes themechanical response of fibrous networks in a geometry that mimics a typicaldeformation profile imposed by cells in vivo. We observe strong fiber alignmentand densification as a function of applied strain for both uncrosslinked andcrosslinked collagenous networks. This alignment is found to be irreversiblyimprinted in uncrosslinked collagen networks, suggesting a simple mechanism fortissue organization at the microscale. However, crosslinked networks displaysimilar fiber alignment and the same geometrical properties as uncrosslinkedgels, but with full reversibility. Plasticity is therefore not required toalign fibers. On the contrary, our data show that this effect is part of thefundamental non-linear properties of fibrous biological networks.

Autor: D. Vader, A. Kabla, D. Weitz, L. Mahadevan


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