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MAE Publications and Papers

Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

New article: Understanding Bone Strength Is Not Enough

Article:  Hernandez, CJ; van der Meulen, MCH; “Understanding Bone Strength Is Not Enough”, Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, 32 (6):1157-1162


Abstract:  Increases in fracture risk beyond what are expected from bone mineral density (BMD) are often attributed to poor “bone quality,” such as impaired bone tissue strength. Recent studies, however, have highlighted the importance of tissue material properties other than strength, such as fracture toughness. Here we review the concepts behind failure properties other than strength and the physical mechanisms through which they cause mechanical failure: strength describes failure from a single overload; fracture toughness describes failure from a modest load combined with a preexisting flaw or damage; and fatigue strength describes failure from thousands to millions of cycles of small loads.

In bone, these distinct failure mechanisms appear to be more common in some clinical fractures than others. For example, wrist fractures are usually the result of a single overload, the failure mechanism dominated by bone strength, whereas spinal fractures are rarely the result of a single overload, implicating multiple loading cycles and increased importance of fatigue strength. The combination of tissue material properties and failure mechanisms that lead to fracture represent distinct mechanistic pathways, analogous to molecular pathways used to describe cell signaling. Understanding these distinct mechanistic pathways is necessary because some characteristics of bone tissue can increase fracture risk by impairing fracture toughness or fatigue strength without impairing bone tissue strength. Additionally, mechanistic pathways to failure associated with fracture toughness and fatigue involve multiple loading events over time, raising the possibility that a developing fracture could be detected and interrupted before overt failure of a bone. Over the past two decades there have been substantial advancements in fracture prevention by understanding bone strength and fractures caused by a single load, but if we are to improve fracture risk prevention beyond what is possible now, we must consider material properties other than strength. (C) 2017 American Society for Bone and Mineral Research.

Funding Acknowledgement:  NIH; National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) [AR057362, AR053571, AR068061]; National Science Foundation [1068560]

Funding Text:  This publication was supported in part by the NIH, National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) under award numbers AR057362, AR053571, and AR068061; and the National Science Foundation under award 1068560. The content of the work is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the funding agencies.

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