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J Biomech. 2009 Jan 5;42(1):82-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jbiomech.2008.09.037. Epub 2008 Dec 9.

Effects of tissue preservation on murine bone mechanical properties.

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  • 1Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02215, USA.


Murine bone specimens are used extensively in skeletal research to assess the effects of environmental, physiologic and pathologic factors on their mechanical properties. Given the destructive nature of mechanical testing, it is normally performed as a terminal procedure, where specimens must be preserved without affecting their mechanical properties. To this end, we aimed to study the effects of tissue preservation (freezing and formalin fixation) on the elastic and viscoelastic mechanical properties of murine femur and vertebrae. A total of 120 femurs and 180 vertebral bodies (L3-L5) underwent non-destructive cyclic loading to assess their viscoelastic properties followed by mono-cyclic loading to failure to assess their elastic properties. All specimens underwent re-hydration in 0.9% saline for 30min prior to mechanical testing. Analysis indicated that stiffness, modulus of elasticity, yield load, yield strength, ultimate load and ultimate strength of frozen and formalin-fixed femurs and vertebrae were not different from fresh specimens. Cyclic loading of both femurs and vertebrae indicated that loss, storage and dynamic moduli were not affected by freezing. However, formalin fixation altered their viscoelastic properties. Our findings suggest that freezing and formalin fixation over a 2-week period do not alter the elastic mechanical properties of murine femurs and vertebrae, provided that specimens are re-hydrated for at least half an hour prior to testing. However, formalin fixation weakened the viscoelastic properties of murine bone by reducing its ability to dissipate viscous energy. Future studies should address the long-term effects of both formalin fixation and freezing on the mechanical properties of murine bone.

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