Exposure to buffer solution alters tendon hydration and mechanics

Babak N. Safa, Kyle D. Meadows, Spencer E. Szczesny, Dawn M. Elliott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


A buffer solution is often used to maintain tissue hydration during mechanical testing. The most commonly used buffer solution is a physiological concentration of phosphate buffered saline (PBS); however, PBS increases the tissue's water content and decreases its tensile stiffness. In addition, solutes from the buffer can diffuse into the tissue and interact with its structure and mechanics. These bathing solution effects can confound the outcome and interpretation of mechanical tests. Potential bathing solution artifacts, including solute diffusion, and their effect on mechanical properties, are not well understood. The objective of this study was to measure the effects of long-term exposure of rat tail tendon fascicles to several concentrations (0.9–25%) of NaCl, sucrose, polyethylene glycol (PEG), and SPEG (NaCl + PEG) solutions on water content, solute diffusion, and mechanical properties. We found that with an increase in solute concentration the apparent water content decreased for all solution types. Solutes diffused into the tissue for NaCl and sucrose, however, no solute diffusion was observed for PEG or SPEG. The mechanical properties changed for both NaCl solutions, in particular after long-term (8 h) incubation the modulus and equilibrium stress decreased compared to short-term (15 min) for 25% NaCl, and the cross sectional area increased for 0.9% NaCl. However, the mechanical properties were unchanged for both PEG and SPEG except for minor alterations in stress relaxation parameters. This study shows that NaCl and sucrose buffer solutions are not suitable for long-term mechanical tests. We therefore propose using PEG or SPEG as alternative buffer solutions that after long-term incubation can maintain tissue hydration without solute diffusion and produce a consistent mechanical response.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)18-25
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Biomechanics
StatePublished - Aug 16 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biophysics
  • Rehabilitation
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'Exposure to buffer solution alters tendon hydration and mechanics'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this