Annals of Biomedical Engineering

, Volume 37, Issue 6, pp 1117-1130

First online:

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

  • Huang TangAffiliated withDepartment of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Northwestern University
  • , Markus J. BuehlerAffiliated withLaboratory for Atomistic and Molecular Mechanics, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Email author 
  • , Brian MoranAffiliated withDepartment of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Northwestern UniversityKing Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST)

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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 model Collagen Soft tissue Molecular mechanics Continuum Finite element Deformation Failure Mechanical properties