Annals of Biomedical Engineering

, Volume 35, Issue 4, pp 672–681 | Cite as

Measurement of in vivo Stress Resultants in Neurulation-stage Amphibian Embryos



In order to obtain the first quantitative measurements of the in vivo stresses in early-stage amphibian embryos, we developed a novel instrument that uses a pair of parallel wires that are glued to the surface of an embryo normal to the direction in which the stress is to be determined. When a slit is made parallel to the wires and between them, tension in the surrounding tissue causes the slit to open. Under computer control, one of the wires is moved so as to restore the original wire spacing, and the steady-state closure force is determined from the degree of wire flexure. A cell-level finite element model is used to convert the wire bending force to an in-plane stress since the wire force is not proportional to the slit length. The device was used to measure stress resultants (force carried per unit of slit length) on the dorsal, ventral and lateral aspects of neurulation-stage axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum) embryos. The resultants were anisotropic and varied with location and developmental stage, with values ranging from −0.17 mN/m to 1.92 mN/m. In general, the resultants could be decomposed into patterns associated with internal pressure in the embryo, bending of the embryo along its mid-sagittal plane and neural tube closure. The patterns of stress revealed by the experiments support a number of current theories about the mechanics of neurulation.


Embryo mechanics Morphogenetic movements Neurulation Instrumentation Finite element modeling 



Animals were obtained from the Ambystoma Genetic Stock Center at the University of Kentucky and were cared for in accordance with Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC) guidelines. Funding was provided by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). Computer simulations were carried out with the assistance of Mr. Jim Veldhuis.


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Copyright information

© Biomedical Engineering Society 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Civil and Environmental EngineeringUniversity of WaterlooWaterlooCanada

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