Biomechanics and Modeling in Mechanobiology

, Volume 11, Issue 7, pp 1075–1084 | Cite as

A power-law rheology-based finite element model for single cell deformation

  • E. H. Zhou
  • F. Xu
  • S. T. Quek
  • C. T. Lim
Original Paper


Physical forces can elicit complex time- and space-dependent deformations in living cells. These deformations at the subcellular level are difficult to measure but can be estimated using computational approaches such as finite element (FE) simulation. Existing FE models predominantly treat cells as spring-dashpot viscoelastic materials, while broad experimental data are now lending support to the power-law rheology (PLR) model. Here, we developed a large deformation FE model that incorporated PLR and experimentally verified this model by performing micropipette aspiration on fibroblasts under various mechanical loadings. With a single set of rheological properties, this model recapitulated the diverse micropipette aspiration data obtained using three protocols and with a range of micropipette sizes. More intriguingly, our analysis revealed that decreased pipette size leads to increased pressure gradient, potentially explaining our previous counterintuitive finding that decreased pipette size leads to increased incidence of cell blebbing and injury. Taken together, our work leads to more accurate rheological interpretation of micropipette aspiration experiments than previous models and suggests pressure gradient as a potential determinant of cell injury.


Cell mechanics Soft glassy rheology Finite element analysis Mechanotransduction Cell injury 


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Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • E. H. Zhou
    • 1
  • F. Xu
    • 2
    • 3
  • S. T. Quek
    • 4
  • C. T. Lim
    • 5
    • 6
    • 7
  1. 1.Program in Molecular and Integrative Physiological Sciences, Department of Environmental HealthHarvard School of Public HealthBostonUSA
  2. 2.The Key Laboratory of Biomedical Information Engineering of Ministry of EducationSchool of Life Science and Technology, Xi’an Jiaotong UniversityXi’anPeople’s Republic of China
  3. 3.Biomedical Engineering and Biomechanics CenterXi’an Jiaotong UniversityXi’anPeople’s Republic of China
  4. 4.Department of Civil EngineeringNational University of SingaporeSingaporeSingapore
  5. 5.Department of BioengineeringNational University of SingaporeSingaporeSingapore
  6. 6.Department of Mechanical EngineeringNational University of SingaporeSingaporeSingapore
  7. 7.Mechanobiology InstituteNational University of SingaporeSingaporeSingapore

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