Rat bone properties and their relationship to gait during growth

Hyunggwi Song, John D. Polk, Mariana E. Kersh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Allometric relationships have been studied over different Orders of mammals to understand how bone accommodates the mechanical demands associated with increasing mass. However, less attention has been given to the scaling of bone within a single lifetime. We aimed to determine how bone morphology and tissue density are related to (1) bending and compressive strength, and (2) gait dynamics. Longitudinal in vivo computed tomography of the hindlimbs and gait data were collected from female rats (n=5, age 8–20 weeks). Cross-sectional properties and tissue density were measured at the diaphysis, distal and proximal regions of the tibia and scaling exponents were calculated. Finite element models of the tibia were used to simulate loading during walking using joint forces from inverse dynamics calculation to determine the strain energy density and longitudinal strain at the midshaft. Second moment of area at the diaphysis followed strain similarity-based allometry, while bone area trended towards positive allometry. Strain energy in the diaphysis under transverse loading was lower than axial loading throughout growth. While both axial and transverse loading resulted in bending, tensile strains were mitigated by a change in the neutral axis and resulted in overall lower longitudinal tensile strains. The tissue density and cross-sectional properties initially increased and converged by 11 weeks of age and were correlated with changes in ground reaction forces. The scaling analyses imply that rodent tibia is (re)modeled in order to sustain bending at the midshaft during growth. The finite element results and relatively constant density after 10 weeks of age indicate that structural parameters may be the primary determinant of bone strength in the growing rodent tibia. The correlations between bone properties and joint angles imply that the changes in posture may affect bone growth in specific regions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberjeb203554
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number18
StatePublished - 2019


  • Biomechanics
  • Density
  • Finite element analysis
  • Ontogenetic growth
  • Scaling
  • Strain
  • Structure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Insect Science


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