Minimally Invasive Micro-Indentation: Mapping tissue mechanics at the tip of an 18G needle

Steven V. Beekmans*, Kaj S. Emanuel, Theodoor H. Smit, Davide Iannuzzi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Experiments regarding the mechanical properties of soft tissues mostly rely on data collected on specimens that are extracted from their native environment. During the extraction and in the time period between the extraction and the completion of the measurements, however, the specimen may undergo structural changes which could generate unwanted artifacts. To further investigate the role of mechanics in physiology and possibly use it in clinical practices, it is thus of paramount importance to develop instruments that could measure the viscoelastic response of a tissue without necessarily excising it. Tantalized by this opportunity, we have designed a minimally invasive micro-indenter that is able to probe the mechanical response of soft tissues, in situ, via an 18G needle. Here, we discuss its working principle and validate its usability by mapping the viscoelastic properties of a complex, confined sample, namely, the nucleus pulposus of the intervertebral disc. Our findings show that the mechanical properties of a biological tissue in its local environment may be indeed different than those that one would measure after excision, and thus confirm that, to better understand the role of mechanics in life sciences, one should always perform minimally invasive measurements like those that we have here introduced.

Original languageEnglish
Article number11364
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2017

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