Assessment of nanoindentation in stiffness measurement of soft biomaterials: kidney, liver, spleen and uterus


  • G. Wu
  • M. Gotthardt
  • M. Gollasch


  • Scientific Reports


  • Sci Rep 10 (1): 18784


  • Nanoindentation technology with high spatial resolution and force sensitivity is widely used to measure the mechanical properties of hard biomaterials and tissues. However, its reliability to analyze soft biomaterials and organs has not been tested. Here, we evaluated the utility of nanoindentation to measure the passive mechanical properties of soft biological specimen. Kidney, liver, spleen and uterus samples were harvested from C57BL/6 N mice. We assessed test–retest repeatability in biological specimen and hydrogel controls using Bland–Altman diagrams, intraclass correlation coefficients (ICCs) and the within-subject coefficients of variation (COVs). The results were calculated using Hertzian, JKR and Oliver & Pharr models. Similar to hydrogels, Bland–Altman plots of all biological specimen showed good reliability in stiffness test and retest examinations. In gels, ICCs were larger than 0.8 and COVs were smaller than 15% in all three models. In kidney, liver, spleen and uterus, ICCs were consistently larger than 0.8 only in the Hertzian model but not in the JKR and Oliver & Pharr models. Similarly, COVs were consistently smaller than 15% in kidney, liver, spleen and uterus only in the Hertzian model but not in the other models. We conclude that nanoindentation technology is feasible in detecting the stiffness of kidney, liver, spleen and uterus. The Hertzian model is the preferred method to provide reliable results on ex vivo organ stiffness of the biological specimen under study.