Visualizing dynamic three-dimensional changes of human reticular dermal collagen under mechanical strain

L. van Haasterecht, M. Zhou, Y. Ma, L. Bartolini, F. van Mourik, P. P. M. van Zuijlen, M. L. Groot

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In clinical practice, plastic surgeons are often faced with large skin defects that are difficult to close primarily. Management of large skin wounds e.g. burns or traumatic lacerations requires knowledge of skin biomechanic properties. Research into skin microstructural adaptation to mechanical deformation has only been performed using static regimes due to technical limitations. Here, we combine uniaxial stretch tests with fast second harmonic generation imaging and we apply this for the first time to investigate dynamic collagen rearrangement in reticular human dermis. Ex vivo human skin from the abdomen and upper thigh was simultaneously uniaxially stretched while either periodically visualizing 3D reorganization, or visualizing 2D changes in real time. We determined collagen alignment via orientation indices and found pronounced variability across samples. Comparing mean orientation indices at the different stages of the stress strain curves (toe, heel, linear) showed a significant increase in collagen alignment during the linear part of the mechanical response. We conclude that fast SHG imaging during uni-axial extension is a promising research tool for future studies on skin biomechanic properties.
Original languageEnglish
Article number035033
JournalBiomedical Physics and Engineering Express
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2023


  • biomechanics
  • scar
  • skin

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