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J Orthop Res. 2012 May;30(5):693-9. doi: 10.1002/jor.22001. Epub 2011 Nov 2.

Viscoelastic properties of human cortical bone tissue depend on gender and elastic modulus.

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Tissue Mechanics Laboratory, Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Indiana 46556, USA.


Bone exhibits rate-dependent failure behavior, suggesting that viscoelasticity is a factor in the damage and fracture of bone. Microdamage initiates at scales below the macroscopic porosity in bone, and, as such, is affected by the intrinsic viscoelasticity of the bone tissue. The viscoelasticity of the bone tissue can be measured by nanoindentation and recording the creep behavior at constant load. The viscoelastic properties have been used to assess differences in tissue behavior with respect to fracture healing, aging, and mouse strains. In this study, we compared the viscoelastic behavior of human cortical bone between genders by using nanoindentation at a fixed load of 10 mN to measure the creep time constant. Bones from females had a significantly greater time constant, indicating slower creep and relaxation, than bones from males. The creep time constants decreased with increasing tissue modulus. The mineralization, collagen content, and collagen cross-link density, which were bulk measurements, were analyzed to determine if the differences in viscoelastic behavior were explained by compositional differences in the bone. However, none of the parameters differed between genders, nor were they correlated to the viscoelastic time constant. As such, the difference must depend on other matrix proteins that we did not assess or differences in the microstructural organization. This is one of the only intrinsic bone material properties that has been found to differ between males and females, and it may be important for assessing differences in fracture risk, since crack propagation is generally sensitive to viscoelastic properties.

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