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Concept: Biomechanics


Classic beam theory is frequently used in biomechanics to model the stress behaviour of vertebrate long bones, particularly when creating intraspecific scaling models. Although methodologically straightforward, classic beam theory requires complex irregular bones to be approximated as slender beams, and the errors associated with simplifying complex organic structures to such an extent are unknown. Alternative approaches, such as finite element analysis (FEA), while much more time-consuming to perform, require no such assumptions. This study compares the results obtained using classic beam theory with those from FEA to quantify the beam theory errors and to provide recommendations about when a full FEA is essential for reasonable biomechanical predictions. High-resolution computed tomographic scans of eight vertebrate long bones were used to calculate diaphyseal stress owing to various loading regimes. Under compression, FEA values of minimum principal stress (σ(min)) were on average 142 per cent (±28% s.e.) larger than those predicted by beam theory, with deviation between the two models correlated to shaft curvature (two-tailed p = 0.03, r(2) = 0.56). Under bending, FEA values of maximum principal stress (σ(max)) and beam theory values differed on average by 12 per cent (±4% s.e.), with deviation between the models significantly correlated to cross-sectional asymmetry at midshaft (two-tailed p = 0.02, r(2) = 0.62). In torsion, assuming maximum stress values occurred at the location of minimum cortical thickness brought beam theory and FEA values closest in line, and in this case FEA values of τ(torsion) were on average 14 per cent (±5% s.e.) higher than beam theory. Therefore, FEA is the preferred modelling solution when estimates of absolute diaphyseal stress are required, although values calculated by beam theory for bending may be acceptable in some situations.

Concepts: Interval finite element, Finite element method, Model, Biomechanics, Solid mechanics, Beam, Torsion, Structural analysis


Numerous studies have been completed on glaucoma pathogenesis. However, the potential and controversial interaction between ocular biomechanical properties and the glaucomatous diseases process has received much more attention recently. Previous studies have found that collagen tissues gain mutation change in glaucoma patients. This study was conducted to determine the role of collagen in the biomechanics of glaucoma in humans. Its changes may be the result of mechanical modifications brought on by intraocular pressure (IOP) fluctuations. More importantly, biomechanics and genetic evidence indicate that the mutation of collagen may play a role in the process of glaucoma. Alteration of collagen in the outflow pathway may alter mechanical tissue characteristics and a concomitant increase of aqueous humor outflow resistance and elevation of IOP. The variations of collagen, leading to inter-individual differences in scleral and lamina cribrosa properties, result in different susceptibility of individuals to elevated IOP. Therefore, this study hypothesized that collagen mutations may be an original cause of glaucoma.

Concepts: Bone, Genetics, Mutation, Cartilage, Cornea, Intraocular pressure, Biomechanics, Aqueous humour


At 50 kg in estimated weight, the extinct Siamogale melilutra is larger than all living otters, and ranks among the largest fossil otters. The biomechanical capability of S. melilutra jaws as related to their large size is unknown but crucial to reconstructing the species' potentially unique ecological niche. Here we compare the mandibular biomechanics of S. melilutra using engineering-based performance measures against ten extant otter biomechanical models. Despite a wide range of feeding preferences from durophagy to piscivory, living otter species exhibit a linear relationship between mandible stiffness and volume, as expected in isometric model scaling. In contrast, S. melilutra models exhibit a six-fold increase in stiffness from expected stiffness-volume relationships calculated from extant species models. Unlike stiffness, mechanical efficiency of biting is conserved among living otters and in S. melilutra. These findings indicate that although similar to living bunodont otters in morphology and biting efficiency, jaw strength in S. melilutra far surpasses molluscivores such as sea otters and Cape clawless otters, even after accounting for size. Therefore, Siamogale represents a feeding ecomorphology with no living analog, and its giant size and high mandibular strength confer shell-crushing capability matched only by other extinct molluscivores such as the marine bear Kolponomos.

Concepts: Biomechanics, Extinction, Otters, Mustelidae, Sea otter, Otter, Extant taxon, Aonyx


Quantitative biomechanical models can identify control parameters that are used during movements, and movement parameters that are encoded by premotor neurons. We fit a mathematical dynamical systems model including subsyringeal pressure, syringeal biomechanics and upper-vocal-tract filtering to the songs of zebra finches. This reduces the dimensionality of singing dynamics, described as trajectories (motor ‘gestures’) in a space of syringeal pressure and tension. Here we assess model performance by characterizing the auditory response ‘replay’ of song premotor HVC neurons to the presentation of song variants in sleeping birds, and by examining HVC activity in singing birds. HVC projection neurons were excited and interneurons were suppressed within a few milliseconds of the extreme time points of the gesture trajectories. Thus, the HVC precisely encodes vocal motor output through activity at the times of extreme points of movement trajectories. We propose that the sequential activity of HVC neurons is used as a ‘forward’ model, representing the sequence of gestures in song to make predictions on expected behaviour and evaluate feedback.

Concepts: Time, Mathematics, Cerebral cortex, Force, Biomechanics, Song, Dynamical system, Vocal music


Iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS) has known biomechanical factors with an unclear explanation based on only strength and flexibility deficits. Neuromuscular coordination has emerged as a likely reason for kinematic faults guiding research toward motor control. This article discusses ITBS in relation to muscle performance factors, fascial considerations, epidemiology, functional anatomy, strength deficits, kinematics, iliotibial strain and strain rate, and biomechanical considerations. Evidence-based exercise approaches are reviewed for ITBS, including related methods used to train the posterior hip muscles.

Concepts: Muscle, Motor control, Muscular system, Biomechanics, Classical mechanics, Acceleration, Neuromuscular disease, Iliotibial band syndrome


Osteoarthritis (OA) is a debilitating disease that reflects a complex interplay of biochemical, biomechanical, metabolic and genetic factors, which are often triggered by injury, and mediated by inflammation, catabolic cytokines and enzymes. An unmet clinical need is the lack of reliable methods that are able to probe the pathogenesis of early OA when disease-rectifying therapies may be most effective. Non-invasive quantitative magnetic resonance imaging (qMRI) techniques have shown potential for characterizing the structural, biochemical and mechanical changes that occur with cartilage degeneration. In this paper, we review the background in articular cartilage and OA as it pertains to conventional MRI and qMRI techniques. We then discuss how conventional MRI and qMRI techniques are used in clinical and research environments to evaluate biochemical and mechanical changes associated with degeneration. Some qMRI techniques allow for the use of relaxometry values as indirect biomarkers for cartilage components. Direct characterization of mechanical behaviour of cartilage is possible via other specialized qMRI techniques. The combination of these qMRI techniques has the potential to fully characterize the biochemical and biomechanical states that represent the initial changes associated with cartilage degeneration. Additionally, knowledge of in vivo cartilage biochemistry and mechanical behaviour in healthy subjects and across a spectrum of osteoarthritic patients could lead to improvements in the detection, management and treatment of OA.

Concepts: Metabolism, Nuclear magnetic resonance, Cartilage, Osteoarthritis, Magnetic resonance imaging, Biomechanics, Metabolic pathway, Articular cartilage damage


: The aims of this study were as follows: to determine if the presence of the nail entry zone alters the biomechanics of the proximal tibia after intramedullary (IM) nailing using a computational model; to determine if nail removal restores normal biomechanics to the proximal tibia; and to determine if these effects are magnified with anterior cortical bone loss.

Concepts: Osteoporosis, Bone, Skeletal system, Biomechanics, Computational model


Turtle shells are a form of armor that provides varying degrees of protection against predation. Although this function of the shell as armor is widely appreciated, the mechanical limits of protection and the modes of failure when subjected to breaking stresses have not been well explored. We studied the mechanical properties of whole shells and of isolated bony tissues and sutures in four species of turtles (Trachemys scripta, Malaclemys terrapin, Chrysemys picta, and Terrapene carolina) using a combination of structural and mechanical tests. Structural properties were evaluated by subjecting whole shells to compressive and point loads in order to quantify maximum load, work to failure, and relative shell deformations. The mechanical properties of bone and sutures from the plastral region of the shell were evaluated using three-point bending experiments. Analysis of whole shell structural properties suggests that small shells undergo relatively greater deformations before failure than do large shells and similar amounts of energy are required to induce failure under both point and compressive loads. Location of failures occurred far more often at sulci than at sutures (representing the margins of the epidermal scutes and the underlying bones, respectively), suggesting that the small grooves in the bone created by the sulci introduce zones of weakness in the shell. Values for bending strength, ultimate bending strain, Young’s modulus, and energy absorption, calculated from the three-point bending data, indicate that sutures are relatively weaker than the surrounding bone, but are able to absorb similar amounts of energy due to higher ultimate strain values. J. Exp. Zool. 9999A:1-13, 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Concepts: Turtle, Biomechanics, Failure, Turtles, Keratin, Diamondback terrapin, Reptiles of the United States, Emydidae


Recent technological advances have allowed the in-vivo measurement of impacts sustained to the head during helmeted sports. These measurements are of interest to researchers and clinicians for their potential to understand both the underlying mechanics of concussive injuries and the potential for real-time injury diagnostics. Following an overview of impact biomechanics, this review will evaluate the following: in-vivo technology being used in American football players; impact frequencies and magnitudes; and the biomechanical threshold for concussion.

Concepts: Injury, Biomechanics, High school, Technology, American football, Concussion, National Football League, High school football


Previous experimental studies have determined local strain fields for both healthy and degenerated cartilage tissue during mechanical loading. However, the biomechanical response of chondrocytes in situ, and in particular, the response of the actin cytoskeleton to physiological loading conditions is poorly understood. In the current study, a 3D representative volume element (RVE) for cartilage tissue is created, comprising of a chondrocyte, surrounded by a pericellular matrix, and embedded in an extracellular matrix. A 3D active modelling framework incorporating actin cytoskeleton remodelling and contractility is implemented to predict the biomechanical behaviour of chondrocytes. Physiological and abnormal strain fields, based on the experimental study of Wong and Sah (Wong and Sah, J. Orthop. Res., 28:1554-61 (2010)), are applied to the RVE. Simulations demonstrate that the presence of a focal defect significantly affects cellular deformation, increases the stress experienced by the nucleus, and alters the distribution of the actin cytoskeleton. It is demonstrated that during dynamic loading, cyclic tension reduction in the cytoplasm causes continuous dissociation of the actin cytoskeleton. In contrast, during static loading significant changes in cytoplasm tension are not predicted and hence the rate of dissociation of the actin cytoskeleton is reduced. It is demonstrated that chondrocyte behaviour is affected by the stiffness of the pericellular matrix, and also by the anisotropy of the extracellular matrix. The findings of the current study are of particular importance for understanding the biomechanics underlying experimental observations such as actin cytoskeleton dissociation during the dynamic loading of chondrocytes.

Concepts: Extracellular matrix, Cartilage, Cytoskeleton, Biomechanics, Young's modulus, Osteoblast, Autologous chondrocyte implantation, Chondrocyte