Bayesian calibration of a computational model of tissue expansion based on a porcine animal model

Tianhong Han, Taeksang Lee, Joanna Ledwon, Elbert Vaca, Sergey Turin, Aaron Kearney, Arun K. Gosain, Adrian B. Tepole*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Tissue expansion is a technique used clinically to grow skin in situ to correct large defects. Despite its enormous potential, lack of fundamental knowledge of skin adaptation to mechanical cues, and lack of predictive computational models limit the broader adoption and efficacy of tissue expansion. In our previous work, we introduced a finite element model of tissue expansion that predicted key patterns of strain and growth which were then confirmed by our porcine animal model. Here we use the data from a new set of experiments to calibrate the computational model within a Bayesian framework. Four 10×10 cm2 patches were tattooed in the dorsal skin of four 12 weeks-old minipigs and a total of six patches underwent successful tissue expander placement and inflation to 60cc for expansion times ranging from 1 h to 7 days. Six patches that did not have expanders implanted served as controls for the analysis. We find that growth can be explained based on the elastic deformation. The predicted area growth rate is k∈[0.02,0.08] [h−1]. Growth is anisotropic and reflects the anisotropic mechanical behavior of porcine dorsal skin. The rostral-caudal axis shows greater deformation than the transverse axis, and the time scale of growth in the rostral-caudal direction is given by rate parameters k1∈[0.04,0.1] [h−1] compared to k2∈[0.01,0.05] [h−1] in the transverse direction. Moreover, the calibration results underscore the high variability in biological systems, and the need to create probabilistic computational models to predict tissue adaptation in realistic settings. Statement of significance: Tissue expansion is a widely used technique in reconstructive surgery because it triggers growth of skin for the correction of large skin lesions and for breast reconstruction after mastectomy. Despite of its potential, complications and undesired outcomes persist due to our incomplete understanding of skin mechanobiology. Here we quantify the deformation and growth fields induced by an expander over 7 days in a porcine animal model and use these data to calibrate a computational model of skin growth using finite element simulations and a Bayesian framework. The calibrated model is a leap forward in our understanding skin growth, we now have quantitative understanding of this process: area growth is anisotropic and it is proportional to stretch with a characteristic rate constant of k∈[0.02,0.08] [h−1].

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)136-146
Number of pages11
JournalActa Biomaterialia
StatePublished - Jan 1 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Bayesian inference
  • Growth and remodeling
  • Nonlinear finite elements
  • Skin biomechanics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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