Current theories suggest that bone modeling and remodeling are controlled at the cellular level through signals mediated by osteocytes. However, the specific signals to which bone cells respond are still unknown. Two primary theories are: (1) osteocytes are stimulated via the mechanical deformation of the perilacunar bone matrix and (2) osteocytes are stimulated via fluid flow generated shear stresses acting on osteocyte cell processes within canaliculi. Recently, much focus has been placed on fluid flow theories since in vitro experiments have shown that bone cells are more responsive to analytically estimated levels of fluid shear stress than to direct mechanical stretching using macroscopic strain levels measured on bone in vivo. However, due to the complex microstructural organization of bone, local perilacunar bone tissue strains potentially acting on osteocytes cannot be reliably estimated from macroscopic bone strain measurements. Thus, the objective of this study was to quantify local perilacunar bone matrix strains due to macroscopically applied bone strains similar in magnitude to those that occur in vivo. Using a digital image correlation strain measurement technique, experimentally measured bone matrix strains around osteocyte lacunae resulting from macroscopic strains of approximately 2000 microstrain are significantly greater than macroscopic strain on average and can reach peak levels of over 30,000 microstrain locally. Average strain concentration factors ranged from 1.1 to 3.8, which is consistent with analytical and numerical estimates. This information should lead to a better understanding of how bone cells are affected by whole bone functional loading.
Keywords: Bone; Osteocyte lacuna; Micromechanics; Tissue strain