Human lung extracellular matrix hydrogels resemble the stiffness and viscoelasticity of native lung tissue

Roderick Harold Jan de Hilster*, Prashant K Sharma, Marnix R Jonker, Eric S White, Emmelien A Gercama, Maarten Roobeek, Wim Timens, Martin C Harmsen, Machteld N Hylkema, Janette K Burgess

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Chronic lung diseases such as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are associated with changes in extracellular matrix (ECM) composition and abundance affecting the mechanical properties of the lung. This study aimed to generate ECM hydrogels from control, severe COPD [Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) IV], and fibrotic human lung tissue and evaluate whether their stiffness and viscoelastic properties were reflective of native tissue. For hydrogel generation, control, COPD GOLD IV, and fibrotic human lung tissues were decellularized, lyophilized, ground into powder, porcine pepsin solubilized, buffered with PBS, and gelled at 37°C. Rheological properties from tissues and hydrogels were assessed with a low-load compression tester measuring the stiffness and viscoelastic properties in terms of a generalized Maxwell model representing phases of viscoelastic relaxation. The ECM hydrogels had a greater stress relaxation than tissues. ECM hydrogels required three Maxwell elements with slightly faster relaxation times (τ) than that of native tissue, which required four elements. The relative importance (Ri) of the first Maxwell element contributed the most in ECM hydrogels, whereas for tissue the contribution was spread over all four elements. IPF tissue had a longer-lasting fourth element with a higher Ri than the other tissues, and IPF ECM hydrogels did require a fourth Maxwell element, in contrast to all other ECM hydrogels. This study shows that hydrogels composed of native human lung ECM can be generated. Stiffness of ECM hydrogels resembled that of whole tissue, while viscoelasticity differed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)L698-L704
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology
Issue number4
Early online date12-Feb-2020
Publication statusPublished - Apr-2020


  • COPD
  • extracellular matrix
  • hydrogel
  • IPF
  • rheology

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