The human triceps surae (two gastrocnemii and soleus) has aponeuroses in the proximal and distal aspects, the latter of which insert into the calcaneus by sharing the common Achilles tendon. These tendinous tissues are known to have elasticity and upon muscle contraction the aponeurosis is stretched both longitudinally (along the muscle's line of action) and transversely. Higher aponeurosis transverse deformability has been documented, but there is a paucity of information on the morphology and mechanical properties of human aponeurosis. This study aimed to identify morphological and mechanical characteristics of the human triceps surae aponeuroses. Twenty-five triceps surae muscle-tendon units were procured from 13 human donors (formalin fixed, 6 males, 7 females) aged 67-91 years. Specimens of aponeuroses were excised from the eight regions (posterior and anterior regions of the gastrocnemius medialis and lateralis, medial and lateral parts of soleus; proximal, middle, and distal sites each, 2-4 cm × 2-4 cm). Aponeurosis thickness was measured using a digital caliper. Uniaxial tensile tests were implemented to determine the mechanical properties of specimens loaded longitudinally (along the muscle's line of action) and transversely. The aponeurosis thickness showed significant differences between muscles and sites, while Young's modulus showed direction-dependent (longitudinal vs. transverse) differences within sites. Results show different morphology and mechanical properties of aponeuroses between synergist muscles. The reason for site-dependent differences in stiffness is due to a reduced aponeurosis thickness rather than a reduction in the material property. The anisotropic elastic feature (differences between longitudinal and transverse directions) of the aponeuroses was more pronounced than previous in vivo findings, suggesting inherent material design of the aponeurosis that matches three-dimensional contractile behavior of muscle fibers.
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