Annals of Biomedical Engineering

, Volume 37, Issue 6, pp 1117–1130

A Constitutive Model of Soft Tissue: From Nanoscale Collagen to Tissue Continuum


  • Huang Tang
    • Department of Civil and Environmental EngineeringNorthwestern University
    • Laboratory for Atomistic and Molecular Mechanics, Department of Civil and Environmental EngineeringMassachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Brian Moran
    • Department of Civil and Environmental EngineeringNorthwestern University
    • King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST)

DOI: 10.1007/s10439-009-9679-0

Cite this article as:
Tang, H., Buehler, M.J. & Moran, B. Ann Biomed Eng (2009) 37: 1117. doi:10.1007/s10439-009-9679-0


Soft collagenous tissue features many hierarchies of structure, starting from tropocollagen molecules that form fibrils, and proceeding to a bundle of fibrils that form fibers. Here we report the development of an atomistically informed continuum model of collagenous tissue. Results from full atomistic and molecular modeling are linked with a continuum theory of a fiber-reinforced composite, handshaking the fibril scale to the fiber and continuum scale in a hierarchical multi-scale simulation approach. Our model enables us to study the continuum-level response of the tissue as a function of cross-link density, making a link between nanoscale collagen features and material properties at larger tissue scales. The results illustrate a strong dependence of the continuum response as a function of nanoscopic structural features, providing evidence for the notion that the molecular basis for protein materials is important in defining their larger-scale mechanical properties.


Multi-scale modelCollagenSoft tissueMolecular mechanicsContinuumFinite elementDeformationFailureMechanical properties

Copyright information

© Biomedical Engineering Society 2009