The mechanical consequences of mineralization in embryonic bone

E. Tanck, C.C. Donkelaar, van, K.J. Jepsen, S.A. Goldstein, H. Weinans, E.H. Burger, R. Huiskes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)


The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of mineralization on the mechanical properties of embryonic bone rudiments. For this purpose, four-point bending experiments were performed on unmineralized and mineralized embryonic mouse ribs at 16 and 17 days of gestational age. Young's modulus was calculated using force-displacement data from the experiment in combination with finite element analysis (FEA). For the unmineralized specimens, a calculated average for the Young's modulus of 1.11 (+/- 0.62) MPa was established after corrections for sticking to the four-point bending device and aspect ratio, which is the ratio between the length of the bone and its diameter. For the mineralized specimens, the value was 117 (+/- 62) MPa after corrections. Hence, Young's moduli of embryonic bone rudiments increase by two orders of magnitude within 1 day, during endochondral ossification. As an effect, the hypertrophic chondrocytes in the calcifying cartilage experience a significant change in their mechanical environment. The chondrocytes are effectively stress shielded, which means that they do not carry stresses since stresses are supported by the stiffest parts of the tissue, which are in this case the diaphyseal cortex and the calcified matrix. The deformability of the hypertrophic chondrocytes is, therefore, severely reduced. Since the transition is so sudden and enormous, it can be seen as a process of 'catastrophic' proportion for the hypertrophic chondrocytes. The subsequent resorption of calcified cartilage and the expansion of the marrow cavity could be consequential to stress shielding.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)186-190
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2004


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