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The proteins and polysaccharides of the extracellular matrix (ECM) provide architectural support as well as biochemical and biophysical instruction to cells. Decellularized, ECM hydrogels replicate in vivo functions. The ECM's elasticity and water retention renders it viscoelastic. In this study, we compared the viscoelastic properties of ECM hydrogels derived from the skin, lung and (cardiac) left ventricle and mathematically modelled these data with a generalized Maxwell model. ECM hydrogels from the skin, lung and cardiac left ventricle (LV) were subjected to a stress relaxation test under uniaxial low-load compression at a 20%/s strain rate and the viscoelasticity determined. Stress relaxation data were modelled according to Maxwell. Physical data were compared with protein and sulfated GAGs composition and ultrastructure SEM. We show that the skin-ECM relaxed faster and had a lower elastic modulus than the lung-ECM and the LV-ECM. The skin-ECM had two Maxwell elements, the lung-ECM and the LV-ECM had three. The skin-ECM had a higher number of sulfated GAGs, and a highly porous surface, while both the LV-ECM and the lung-ECM had homogenous surfaces with localized porous regions. Our results show that the elasticity of ECM hydrogels, but also their viscoelastic relaxation and gelling behavior, was organ dependent. Part of these physical features correlated with their biochemical composition and ultrastructure.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3113
Number of pages17
Issue number18
Publication statusPublished - 15-Sept-2021

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