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Theses Doctoral

Contributions of anisotropic and heterogeneous tissue modulus to apparent trabecular bone mechanical properties

Yu, Yue

The highly optimized hierarchical structure of trabecular bone is a major contributor to its remarkable mechanical properties. At the micro-scale level, individual plate-like and rod-like trabeculae are interconnected, forming a complex trabecular architecture. It is widely believed that bone strength, an important mechanical characteristic that describes the capability of bone to resist fracture, is largely determined by the tissue-level material properties of these microscopic trabecular elements. However, due to the complicated microstructure and irregular morphology of trabecular bone, a link between the tissue-level and the apparent level mechanics in trabecular bone has never been established. Thus, the goal of this thesis is to examine the tissue-level material properties of trabecular bone and their contribution to apparent-level bone mechanics, and ultimately to improve our fundamental understanding and assessment of bone strength in diseased and healthy patients.
At the micro-scale level, plate-like and rod-like trabeculae are distinctly aligned along different orientations on the anatomical axis of the skeleton. Also, the highly organized underlying ultrastructure of bone tissue suggests trabecular bone might possess an anisotropic tissue modulus, i.e. different modulus in the axial and lateral cross-section of a trabecula. In this thesis, we studied this tissue-level anisotropy by examining mechanical properties of individual trabecular plates and rods aligned longitudinally, obliquely, and transversely on the anatomical axis using micro-indentation. We discovered that, despite the different orientations of trabeculae, tissue moduli are higher in the axial direction than in the lateral direction for both plates and rods. We also discovered that plates have a higher tissue modulus than rods, suggesting different degrees of mineralization. Furthermore, the tissue mineral density correlated strongly but distinctly with tissue modulus in the axial and lateral directions, providing descriptions on how spatially heterogeneous mineralization at the tissue level affects the tissue modulus.
After characterization of the anisotropic and heterogeneous modulus of trabecular bone at the tissue level, we then sought to investigate its contribution to apparent-level mechanical properties, including apparent Young’s modulus and yield strength. Non-linear FE voxel models incorporating experimentally determined anisotropy and heterogeneity were created from micro-computed tomography (µCT) images of healthy trabecular bone samples. Apparent Young's modulus and yield strength predicted by the models were compared to and correlated with gold standard mechanical testing measurements, as well as to the same FE models without incorporation of anisotropy and/or heterogeneity. We discovered that the anisotropic model prediction was highly correlated and indistinguishable from mechanical testing measurements. However, the prediction power of the model was not enhanced by incorporating anisotropy and heterogeneity (compared to a homogeneous and isotropic model), suggesting that variances in tissue-level material properties contribute minimally to the apparent level bone behaviors in healthy bone.
However, the possibility remained that a more substantial contribution could arise in diseased bone, particularly diseases in which tissue-level properties are compromised. Therefore, we studied trabecular bone in two diseased conditions – subchondral bone in human knees affected by osteoarthritis and pelvic bone affected by adolescent idiopathic sclerosis – to see how disease can alter the tissue-level and, consequently, apparent-level bone mechanics. In OA bone, we found a significant decrease in tissue modulus in the subchondral bone under severely damaged cartilage compared to control, which provides an explanation for a minimal increase in apparent stiffness with an almost doubled bone volume fraction. In AIS bone, no differences were found in tissue-level or apparent level Young’s modulus compared to control. However, the mineral density was found to play a distinct role in the modulus of growing bone tissue compared to mature bone.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Biomedical Engineering
Thesis Advisors
Guo, X. Edward
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
July 29, 2017