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Modelling Extracellular Matrix and Cellular Contributions to Whole Muscle Mechanics

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Skeletal muscle tissue has a highly complex and heterogeneous structure comprising several physical length scales. In the simplest model of muscle tissue, it can be represented as a one dimensional nonlinear spring in the direction of muscle fibres. However, at the finest level, muscle tissue includes a complex network of collagen fibres, actin and myosin proteins, and other cellular materials. This study shall derive an intermediate physical model which encapsulates the major contributions of the muscle components to the elastic response apart from activation-related along-fibre responses. The micro-mechanical factors in skeletal muscle tissue (eg. connective tissue, fluid, and fibres) can be homogenized into one material aggregate that will capture the behaviour of the combination of material components. In order to do this, the corresponding volume fractions for each type of material need to be determined by comparing the stress-strain relationship for a volume containing each material. This results in a model that accounts for the micro-mechanical features found in muscle and can therefore be used to analyze effects of neuro-muscular diseases such as cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophies. The purpose of this study is to construct a model of muscle tissue that, through choosing the correct material parameters based on experimental data, will accurately capture the mechanical behaviour of whole muscle. This model is then used to look at the impacts of the bulk modulus and material parameters on muscle deformation and strain energy-density distributions.
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