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J Mech Behav Biomed Mater. 2013 Feb;18:90-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jmbbm.2012.11.005. Epub 2012 Nov 28.

Insight into differences in nanoindentation properties of bone.

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Department of Bioengineering, 4.28/2, Imperial College London, London SW7 2AZ, UK.


Nanoindentation provides the ideal framework to determine mechanical properties of bone at the tissue scale without being affected by the size, shape, and porosity of the bone. However, the values of tissue level mechanical properties vary significantly between studies. Since the differences in the bone sample, hydration state, and test parameters complicate direct comparisons across the various studies, these discrepancies in values cannot be compared directly. The objective of the current study is to evaluate and compare mechanical properties of the same bones using a broad range of testing parameters. Wild type C56BL6 mice tibiae were embedded following different processes and tested in dry and rehydrated conditions. Spherical and Berkovich indenter probes were used, and data analysis was considered within the elasto-plastic (Oliver-Pharr), viscoelastic and visco-elastic-plastic frameworks. The mean values of plane strain modulus varied significantly depending on the hydration state, probe geometry and analysis method. Indentations in dry bone analyzed using a visco-elastic-plastic approach gave values of 34 GPa. After rehydrating the same bones and indenting them with a spherical tip and utilizing a viscoelastic analysis, the mean modulus value was 4 GPa, nearly an order of magnitude smaller. Results suggest that the hydration state, probe geometry and the limitations and assumptions of each analysis method influence significantly the measured mechanical properties. This is the first time that such a systematic study has been carried out and it has been concluded that the discrepancies in the mechanical properties of bone measured by nanoindentation found in the literature should not be attributed only to the differences between the bones themselves, but also to the testing and analysis protocols.

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