Assessment of Mechanically Induced Changes in Helical Fiber Microstructure Using Diffusion Tensor Imaging

Roberto Alonso Pineda Guzman, Noel Naughton, Shreyan Majumdar, Bruce Damon, Mariana E. Kersh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Noninvasive methods to detect microstructural changes in collagen-based fibrous tissues are necessary to differentiate healthy from damaged tissues in vivo but are sparse. Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) is a noninvasive imaging technique used to quantitatively infer tissue microstructure with previous work primarily focused in neuroimaging applications. Yet, it is still unclear how DTI metrics relate to fiber microstructure and function in musculoskeletal tissues such as ligament and tendon, in part because of the high heterogeneity inherent to such tissues. To address this limitation, we assessed the ability of DTI to detect microstructural changes caused by mechanical loading in tissue-mimicking helical fiber constructs of known structure. Using high-resolution optical and micro-computed tomography imaging, we found that static and fatigue loading resulted in decreased sample diameter and a re-alignment of the macro-scale fiber twist angle similar with the direction of loading. However, DTI and micro-computed tomography measurements suggest microstructural differences in the effect of static versus fatigue loading that were not apparent at the bulk level. Specifically, static load resulted in an increase in diffusion anisotropy and a decrease in radial diffusivity suggesting radially uniform fiber compaction. In contrast, fatigue loads resulted in increased diffusivity in all directions and a change in the alignment of the principal diffusion direction away from the constructs’ main axis suggesting fiber compaction and microstructural disruptions in fiber architecture. These results provide quantitative evidence of the ability of DTI to detect mechanically induced changes in tissue microstructure that are not apparent at the bulk level, thus confirming its potential as a noninvasive measure of microstructure in helically architected collagen-based tissues, such as ligaments and tendons.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)832-844
Number of pages13
JournalAnnals of Biomedical Engineering
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2024


  • Diffusion MRI
  • Fatigue
  • Fiber
  • Mechanics
  • Microstructure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering


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