Mapping the natural variation in whole bone stiffness and strength across skeletal sites.

Bone

PubMedID: 24999223

Schlecht SH, Bigelow EM, Jepsen KJ. Mapping the natural variation in whole bone stiffness and strength across skeletal sites. Bone. 2014;.
Traits of the skeletal system are coordinately adjusted to establish mechanical homeostasis in response to genetic and environmental factors. Prior work demonstrated that this 'complex adaptive' process is not perfect, revealing a two-fold difference in whole bone stiffness of the tibia across a population. Robustness (specifically, total cross-sectional area relative to length) varies widely across skeletal sites and between sexes. However, it is unknown whether the natural variation in whole bone stiffness and strength also varies across skeletal sites and between men and women. We tested the hypotheses that: 1) all major long bones of the appendicular skeleton demonstrate inherent, systemic constraints in the degree to which morphological and compositional traits can be adjusted for a given robustness; and 2) that these traits covary in a predictable manner independent of body size and robustness. We assessed the functional relationships among robustness, cortical area (Ct.Ar), cortical tissue mineral density (Ct.TMD), and bone strength index (BSI) across the long bones of the upper and lower limbs of 115 adult men and women. All bones showed a significant (p<0.001) positive regression between BSI and robustness after adjusting for body size, with slender bones being 1.7 - 2.3 times less stiff and strong in men and 1.3 - 2.8 times less stiff and strong in women compared to robust bones. Our findings are the first to document the natural inter-individual variation in whole bone stiffness and strength that exist within populations and that is predictable based on skeletal robustness for all major long bones. Documenting and further understanding this natural variation in strength may be critical for differentially diagnosing and treating skeletal fragility.