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Acta Biomater. 2009 Nov;5(9):3506-11. doi: 10.1016/j.actbio.2009.04.042. Epub 2009 May 18.

Evaluation of the mechanical properties of rat bone under simulated microgravity using nanoindentation.

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School of Biological Science and Medical Engineering, Beihang University, Beijing 100191, China.


Exposure to microgravity causes a decrease in bone mass and altered bone geometry due to the lack of weight-bearing forces on the skeleton. The mechanical properties of bone are due not only to the structure and geometry, but also to the tissue properties of the bone material itself. To study the effects of microgravity on bone tissue, the mechanical properties of tail suspension rat femurs were investigated. Twelve Sprague-Dawley rats were randomly divided into two groups, tail suspension (TS) and control (CON). On days 0 and 14, the bone mineral density (BMD) of the femurs was determined by Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry. After 14 days, three-point bending was used to test the mechanical properties of the whole femur and nanoindentation was used to measure the mechanical properties of the bone materials. The BMD of femurs in TS was significantly lower than that in CON. In the three-point bending testing, the breaking load, stiffness and energy absorption all decreased significantly in the TS group. In the nanoindentation tests, there was no significant difference between TS and CON in elastic modulus (E), while hardness (H) was significantly decreased and E/H significantly increased in TS. Weightlessness affects the intrinsic mechanical properties of bone at the bone material level. It is necessary to investigate further the effect of microgravity on the collagen bone matrix. Nanoindentation is a relatively new technique that is useful for investigating the above changes induced by microgravity and for assessing the efficacy of intervention.

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