Predicting the bending properties of long bones: insights from an experimental mouse model


Objectives. Analyses of bone cross-sectional geometry are frequently used by anthropologists and paleontologists to infer the loading histories of past populations. To address some underlying assumptions, we investigated the relative roles of genetics and exercise on bone cross-sectional geometry and bending mechanics in three mouse strains: high bone density (C3H/He), low bone density (C57BL/6), and a high-runner strain homozygous for the Myh4Minimsc allele (MM). Methods and Materials. Weanlings of each strain were divided into exercise (wheel) or control (sedentary) treatment groups for a 7-week experimental period. Morphometrics of the femoral mid-diaphysis and mechanical testing were used to assess both theoretical and ex vivo bending mechanics. Results. Across all measured morphological and bending traits, we found relatively small effects of exercise treatment compared to larger and more frequent interstrain differences. In the exercised group, total distance run over the experimental period was not a predictor of any morphological or bending traits. Cross-sectional geometry did not accurately predict bone response to loading. Discussion. Results from this experimental model do not support hypothesized associations among extreme exercise, cross-sectional geometry, and bending mechanics. Our results suggest that analysis of cross-sectional geometry alone is insufficient to predict loading response, and questions the common assumption that cross-sectional geometry differences are indicative of differential loading history.

American Journal of Physical Anthropology