93925 - Mechanics of Biological Tissues

Academic Year 2021/2022

  • Moduli: Luca Cristofolini (Modulo 1) Luca Cristofolini (Modulo 2)
  • Teaching Mode: Traditional lectures (Modulo 1) Traditional lectures (Modulo 2)
  • Campus: Cesena
  • Corso: Second cycle degree programme (LM) in Biomedical Engineering (cod. 9266)

Learning outcomes

Trough this course the student becomes aware of the structure and mechanical behaviour of the main living tissues. The student will be able to: - Understand the connection between biomechanical function, mechanical properties and structure of the tissues. - Analyze the different mechanical properties of living tissues. - Develop and analyze experiments for mechanical testing biological tissues.

Course contents

Recalling concepts of mechanics of materials:
- Elasticity, plasticity, viscoelasticity, pseudoelasticity
- Failure criteria (brittle, ductile, viscoelastic, fatigue)

Structure and composition of living tissues:
- Structural components
- Structure and organization and properties of tissues

Classification and description of main tissues (based on function; based on mechanical properties):
- Connective (bone, cartilage, menisci, ligaments, tendons, fat tissue)
- Muscles
- Epithelial (derma, epithelium, mesothelium, endothelium)
- Blood vessels
- Nervous

Mechanical properties of tissues and response to mechanical stress:
- Function, structure, mechanical properties
- Elasticity, viscoelasticity
- Mechanical strength and trauma of tissues
- Growth, modelling, healing, and remodelling

Methods for mechanical testing of biological tissues:
- Problems related to testing (measurement error, error propagation, design of the experiment)
- Types of test (tensile, bending compression, friction, creep, hysteresis, viscosity, etc).
- Measurement devices

Laboratory activity:
The course is based on a series of weekly laboratory testing (some numerical, but mainly experimental, in-vitro). Experiments will be carried out measuring biomechanical properties of tissue specimens and of biomechanical systems. Each student must prepare a technical report for each of the experiments. The report must be short and exhaustive, covering: introduction and goals of the experiments; description of specimens and testing devices; presentation of results (including analysis of errors); discussion of results and conclusive remarks.



 - The topic for the essays are agreed during the first 4 weeks of the course.

- The work is carried out in small teams: the students will arrange groups of 2-5 persons. They must confirm the group composition during the first 4 weeks of the course.

- Any change to the teams after that period must be discussed with the teacher.

- Review meetings will take place during the semester.

- Two weeks before the end of the lectures, each group will deliver a written essay.  The length depends on the number of the members of the team: 5-10 pages (including pictures/tables) per person is the recommended length.

- During the final weeks of the course, each group will present their essay.  Dates will be agreed with the teacher.  Each of the members of the team will present his/her part.  Each group should prepare their slides: 8-10 minutes per person, i.e. 8-10 slides per person.

- Every member of the team is responsible for the quality of the entire manuscript.  Each member is responsible for his/her presentation.

- The presentation (during the final lectures) is part of the final exam.


The course relies on a set of slides intended to cover the entire program. The slides are made available to the students during the course through the UniBo web services. They can be downloaded from the online services of UniBo Insegnamenti Online (UniBo students only).

Further reading (optional):
- Montevecchi F., Redaelli A. “Biomeccanica. Analisi multiscala di tessuti biologici” Patron Pubbl. 2007
- Fung Y.C. “Biomechanics: Mechanical properties of living tissues” Springer-Verlag Publ., 1981 (properties of tissues)
- Fung Y.C. “Biomechanics: Motion, flow, stress and growth” Springer-Verlag Publ., 1990 (tissue adaptation and healing)
- Beer F.P., Russel J.E. "Scienza delle costruzioni. Introduzione alla meccanica dei materiali" McGraw-Hill Publ. (mechanics of materials, with examples)
- Nordin M., Frankel V.H. "Basic biomechanics of the musculoskeletal system" Lea & Febiger Publ. (exercises and examples in biomechanics)
- Black J., Hastings G. "Handobook of biomaterial properties" Chapman & Hall Publ. (properties of tissues)
- Bronzino J.D. "The Biomedical engineering handbook" CRC Press - IEEE Press (general handbook)
- Palastanga et al. "Anatomy and human movement" Butterworth-Heinemann Publ. (functional anatomy)
- Pietrabissa R. "Biomateriali per protesi e organi artificiali" Patron ed. (biomaterials)

Teaching methods

The theoretical lectures are supported and complemented by a series of weekly experiments in the lab.


Requirements to be enable to attend the labs

Because of the kind of laboratory activity planned, the labs can be attended only by those students who took the relevant safety courses (modules 1 and 2 e-learning) and attended module 3.

Assessment methods

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 emergency, the most updated information can be found in the "News" webpage of prof. Cristofolini.

Passing the exam requires three steps:

1) Having submitted the essay on the topic agreed, and having presented it satisfactorily. 

2) Submitting the reports of the laboratory activities (on the same day of the exam).  Each student must present the report on the day of the exam, either printed (exam in person) or as a pdf (remote exam)

3) Taking the oral exam which will cover:

  • Questions on all the course program, including the seminars during the lecture hours
  • Discussion about the lab activities.  

The final score depends on the presentation of the essay (33%) and on the oral exam (66%).  

In case of fail, the student cannot take the exam before 30 days.


Teaching tools

Projector, chalkboard. Experimental laboratory work includes the use of tools for the preparation of in-vitro tissue specimens, and of machines for material testing.

Office hours

See the website of Luca Cristofolini


Good health and well-being

This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.