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Nearly all biologic tissues exhibit viscoelastic behavior. This behavior is characterized by hysteresis in the response of the material to load or strain. This information can be utilized in extrapolation of life expectancy of vascular implant materials including native tissues and synthetic materials. This behavior is exhibited in many engineering materials as well such as the polymers PTFE, polyamide, polyethylene, etc. While procedures have been developed for evaluating the engineering polymers the techniques for biologic tissues are not as mature. There are multiple reasons for this. A major one is a cultural divide between the medical and engineering communities. Biomedical engineers are beginning to fill that void.
A digitally controlled drivetrain designed to evaluate both elastic and viscoelastic characteristics of biologic tissues has been developed. The initial impetus for the development of this device was to evaluate the potential for human umbilical tissue to serve as a vascular graft material. The consequence is that the load frame is configured for membrane type specimens with rectangular dimensions of no more than 25mm per side. The designed load capacity of the drivetrain is to impose an axial load of 40N on the specimen.
This drivetrain is capable of assessing the viscoelastic response of the specimens by four different test modes: stress relaxation, creep, harmonic induced oscillations, and controlled strain rate tests.
The fluorocarbon PTFE has mechanical properties commensurate with vascular tissue. In fact, it has been used for vascular grafts in patients who have been victims of various traumas. Hardware and software validation of the device was accomplished by testing PTFE and comparing the results to properties that have been published by both researchers and manufacturers.