Whole bone morphology, cortical geometry, and tissue material properties modulate skeletal stresses and strains that in turn influence skeletal physiology and remodeling. Understanding how bone stiffness, the relationship between applied load and tissue strain, is regulated by developmental changes in bone structure and tissue material properties is important in implementing biophysical strategies for promoting healthy bone growth and preventing bone loss. The goal of this study was to relate developmental patterns of in vivo whole bone stiffness to whole bone morphology, cross-sectional geometry, and tissue properties using a mouse axial loading model. We measured in vivo tibial stiffness in three age groups (6, 10, 16 wk old) of female C57Bl/6 mice during cyclic tibial compression. Tibial stiffness was then related to cortical geometry, longitudinal bone curvature, and tissue mineral density using microcomputed tomography (microCT). Tibial stiffness and the stresses induced by axial compression were generally maintained from 6 to 16 wks of age. Growth-related increases in cortical cross-sectional geometry and longitudinal bone curvature had counteracting effects on induced bone stresses and, therefore, maintained tibial stiffness similarly with growth. Tissue mineral density increased slightly from 6 to 16 wks of age, and although the effects of this increase on tibial stiffness were not directly measured, its role in the modulation of whole bone stiffness was likely minor over the age range examined. Thus, whole bone morphology, as characterized by longitudinal curvature, along with cortical geometry, plays an important role in modulating bone stiffness during development and should be considered when evaluating and designing in vivo loading studies and biophysical skeletal therapies.
Copyright © 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.