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J Anat. 2015 Mar;226(3):236-43. doi: 10.1111/joa.12278. Epub 2015 Feb 4.

A potential mechanism for allometric trabecular bone scaling in terrestrial mammals.

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Orthopaedic Biomechanics, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Eindhoven University of Technology, Eindhoven, The Netherlands.


Trabecular bone microstructural parameters, including trabecular thickness, spacing, and number, have been reported to scale with animal size with negative allometry, whereas bone volume fraction is animal size-invariant in terrestrial mammals. As for the majority of scaling patterns described in animals, its underlying mechanism is unknown. However, it has also been found that osteocyte density is inversely related to animal size, possibly adapted to metabolic rate, which shows a negative relationship as well. In addition, the signalling reach of osteocytes is limited by the extent of the lacuno-canalicular network, depending on trabecular dimensions and thus also on animal size. Here we propose animal size-dependent variations in osteocyte density and their signalling influence distance as a potential mechanism for negative allometric trabecular bone scaling in terrestrial mammals. Using an established and tested computational model of bone modelling and remodelling, we run simulations with different osteocyte densities and influence distances mimicking six terrestrial mammals covering a large range of body masses. Simulated trabecular structures revealed negative allometric scaling for trabecular thickness, spacing, and number, constant bone volume fraction, and bone turnover rates inversely related to animal size. These results are in agreement with previous observations supporting our proposal of osteocyte density and influence distance variation as a potential mechanism for negative allometric trabecular bone scaling in terrestrial mammals. The inverse relationship between bone turnover rates and animal size further indicates that trabecular bone scaling may be linked to metabolic rather than mechanical adaptations.


bone modelling and remodelling; computational modelling and simulation; metabolic rate; micro-finite element analysis; osteocyte density; osteocyte influence distance; trabecular bone scaling

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