Ionizing radiation, from both space and radiation therapy, is known to affect bone health. While there have been studies investigating changes in bone density and microstructure from radiation exposure, the effects of radiation on material properties are unknown. The current study addresses this gap by assessing bone material property changes in rats exposed to helium-4 radiation through spherical micro-indentation. Rats were exposed to a single dose of 0, 5, and 25 cGy whole body helium-4 radiation. Animals were euthanized at 7, 30, 90, or 180-days after exposure. Spherical micro-indentation was performed on axial cross sections of the femur cortical bone to determine instantaneous and relaxed shear moduli. At 90-days after exposure, the 25 cGy exposure caused a significant decline in shear modulus compared to control and 5 cGy groups. The instantaneous modulus decreased 33% and the relaxed modulus decreased 32% as compared to the sham group. This decline was followed by a recovery of both moduli, which was observed by 180-days after exposure; at 180 days, the moduli were no longer statistically different from those at 7 or 30 days. The observed decrease at 90 days, followed by recovery to baseline levels, can be attributed to the biological mechanisms involved in bone formation that were affected by radiation, bone turnover, and systemic changes in hormones due to radiation exposure. Continued assessment of the mechanisms that drive such a response in material properties may enable identification of pathways for therapeutic countermeasures against radiation exposure.
Radiation exposure; Bone health; Material properties; Shear modulus; Micro-indentation