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Journal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE)







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Traditional mechanical testing often results in the destruction of the sample, and in the case of long term tissue engineered construct studies, the use of destructive assessment is not acceptable. A proposed alternative is the use of an imaging process called magnetic resonance elastography. Elastography is a nondestructive method for determining the engineered outcome by measuring local mechanical property values (i.e., complex shear modulus), which are essential markers for identifying the structure and functionality of a tissue. As a noninvasive means for evaluation, the monitoring of engineered constructs with imaging modalities such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has seen increasing interest in the past decade. For example, the magnetic resonance (MR) techniques of diffusion and relaxometry have been able to characterize the changes in chemical and physical properties during engineered tissue development. The method proposed in the following protocol uses microscopic magnetic resonance elastography (μMRE) as a noninvasive MR based technique for measuring the mechanical properties of small soft tissues. MRE is achieved by coupling a sonic mechanical actuator with the tissue of interest and recording the shear wave propagation with an MR scanner. Recently, μMRE has been applied in tissue engineering to acquire essential growth information that is traditionally measured using destructive mechanical macroscopic techniques. In the following procedure, elastography is achieved through the imaging of engineered constructs with a modified Hahn spin-echo sequence coupled with a mechanical actuator. As shown in Figure 1, the modified sequence synchronizes image acquisition with the transmission of external shear waves; subsequently, the motion is sensitized through the use of oscillating bipolar pairs. Following collection of images with positive and negative motion sensitization, complex division of the data produce a shear wave image. Then, the image is assessed using an inversion algorithm to generate a shear stiffness map. The resulting measurements at each voxel have been shown to strongly correlate (R(2)>0.9914) with data collected using dynamic mechanical analysis. In this study, elastography is integrated into the tissue development process for monitoring human mesenchymal stem cell (hMSC) differentiation into adipogenic and osteogenic constructs as shown in Figure 2.