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Keywords:

  • elastic modulus;
  • epithelial cells;
  • biomechanics;
  • PDMS;
  • stress–strain relationship

The lung has a huge inner alveolar surface composed of epithelial cell layers. The knowledge about mechanical properties of lung epithelia is helpful to understand the complex lung mechanics and biomechanical interactions. Methods have been developed to determine mechanical indices (e.g., tissue elasticity) which are both very complex and in need of costly equipment. Therefore, in this study, a mechanostimulator is presented to dynamically stimulate lung epithelial cell monolayers in order to determine their mechanical properties based on a simple mathematical model. First, the method was evaluated by comparison to classical tensile testing using silicone membranes as substitute for biological tissue. Second, human pulmonary epithelial cells (A549 cell line) were grown on flexible silicone membranes and stretched at a defined magnitude. Equal secant moduli were determined in the mechanostimulator and in a conventional tension testing machine (0.49 ± 0.05 MPa and 0.51 ± 0.03 MPa, respectively). The elasticity of the cell monolayer could be calculated by the volume–pressure relationship resulting from inflation of the membrane-cell construct. The secant modulus of the A549 cell layer was calculated as 0.04 ± 0.008 MPa. These findings suggest that the mechanostimulator may represent an adequate device to determine mechanical properties of cell layers. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Biomed Mater Res Part B: Appl Biomater 101B: 1164–1171, 2013.