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Passive mechanical tissue properties are major determinants of myocardial contraction and relaxation and, thus, shape cardiac function. Tightly regulated, dynamically adapting throughout life, and affecting a host of cellular functions, passive tissue mechanics also contribute to cardiac dysfunction. Development of treatments and early identification of diseases requires better spatio-temporal characterisation of tissue mechanical properties and their underlying mechanisms. With this understanding, key regulators may be identified, providing pathways with potential to control and limit pathological development. Methodologies and models used to assess and mimic tissue mechanical properties are diverse, and available data are in part mutually contradictory. In this review, we define important concepts useful for characterising passive mechanical tissue properties, and compare a variety of in vitro and in vivo techniques that allow one to assess tissue mechanics. We give definitions of key terms, and summarise insight into determinants of myocardial stiffness in situ. We then provide an overview of common experimental models utilised to assess the role of environmental stiffness and composition, and its effects on cardiac cell and tissue function. Finally, promising future directions are outlined.

Original publication




Journal article


Biophysical Reviews

Publication Date





587 - 610