The mechanical response of the mouse cervix to tensile cyclic loading in term and preterm pregnancy

C. Jayyosi, N. Lee, A. Willcockson, S. Nallasamy, M. Mahendroo, K. Myers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


A well-timed modification of both the collagen and elastic fiber network in the cervix during pregnancy accompanies the evolution of tissue mechanical parameters that are key to a successful pregnancy. Understanding of the cervical mechanical behaviour along normal and abnormal pregnancy is crucial to define the molecular events that regulate remodeling in term and preterm birth (PTB). In this study, we measured the mechanical response of mouse cervical tissue to a history of cyclic loading and quantified the tissue's ability to recover from small and large deformations. Assessments were made in nonpregnant, pregnant (gestation days 6, 12, 15 and 18) and mouse models of infection mediated PTB treated with lipopolysaccharide on gestation d15 (LPS treated) and hormone withdrawal mediated PTB on gestation d15 (RU486 treated). The current study uncovers the contributions of collagen and elastic fiber networks to the progressive change in mechanical function of the cervix through pregnancy. Premature cervical remodeling induced on gestation day 15 in the LPS infection model is characterized by distinct mechanical properties that are similar but not identical to mechanical properties at term ripening on day 18. Remodeling in the LPS infection model results in a weaker cervix, unable to withstand high loads. In contrast, the RU486 preterm model resembles the cyclic mechanical behaviour seen for term d18 cervix, where the extremely compliant tissue is able to withstand multiple cycles under large deformations without breaking. The distinct material responses to load-unload cycles in the two PTB models matches the differing microstructural changes in collagen and elastic fibers in these two models of preterm birth. Improved understanding of the impact of microstructural changes to mechanical performance of the cervix will provide insights to aid in the development of therapies for prevention of preterm birth. Statement of significance: Preterm Birth (PTB) still represents a serious challenge to be overcome, considering its implications on infant mortality and lifelong health consequences. While the causes and etiologies of PTB are diverse and yet to be fully elucidated, a common pathway leading to a preterm delivery is premature cervical remodeling. Throughout pregnancy, the cervix remodels through changes of its microstructure, thus altering its mechanical properties. An appropriate timing for these transformations is critical for a healthy pregnancy and avoidance of PTB. Hence, this study aims at understanding how the mechanical function of the cervix evolves during a normal and preterm pregnancy. By performing cyclic mechanical testing on cervix samples from animal models, we assess the cervix's ability to recover from moderate and severe loading. The developed methodology links mechanical parameters to specific microstructural components. This work identifies a distinct biomechanical signature associated with inflammation mediated PTB that differs from PTB induced by hormone withdrawal and from normal term remodeling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)308-319
Number of pages12
JournalActa Biomaterialia
StatePublished - Sep 15 2018


  • Cervical remodeling
  • Cyclic tensile test
  • LPS
  • Preterm birth
  • RU486

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biomaterials
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Molecular Biology


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