Annals of Biomedical Engineering

, Volume 41, Issue 4, pp 814–826 | Cite as

Computational Modelling of the Mechanics of Trabecular Bone and Marrow Using Fluid Structure Interaction Techniques

  • E. Birmingham
  • J. A. Grogan
  • G. L. Niebur
  • L. M. McNamara
  • P. E. McHugh


Bone marrow found within the porous structure of trabecular bone provides a specialized environment for numerous cell types, including mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). Studies have sought to characterize the mechanical environment imposed on MSCs, however, a particular challenge is that marrow displays the characteristics of a fluid, while surrounded by bone that is subject to deformation, and previous experimental and computational studies have been unable to fully capture the resulting complex mechanical environment. The objective of this study was to develop a fluid structure interaction (FSI) model of trabecular bone and marrow to predict the mechanical environment of MSCs in vivo and to examine how this environment changes during osteoporosis. An idealized repeating unit was used to compare FSI techniques to a computational fluid dynamics only approach. These techniques were used to determine the effect of lower bone mass and different marrow viscosities, representative of osteoporosis, on the shear stress generated within bone marrow. Results report that shear stresses generated within bone marrow under physiological loading conditions are within the range known to stimulate a mechanobiological response in MSCs in vitro. Additionally, lower bone mass leads to an increase in the shear stress generated within the marrow, while a decrease in bone marrow viscosity reduces this generated shear stress.


Bone Bone marrow Fluid structure interaction Computational fluid dynamics Shear stress Mesenchymal stem cells Osteoporosis Mechanobiology 



The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare. The authors acknowledge Dr. Nathan Quinlan for very useful discussions. The authors would like to acknowledge funding from the Irish Research Council, under the EMBARK program (E. Birmingham) and the Science Foundation Ireland E.T.S. Walton program 07/W.I./B1806 (G.L. Niebur).


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Copyright information

© Biomedical Engineering Society 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • E. Birmingham
    • 1
  • J. A. Grogan
    • 1
  • G. L. Niebur
    • 2
  • L. M. McNamara
    • 1
  • P. E. McHugh
    • 1
  1. 1.Biomechanics Research Centre (BMEC), Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering, College of Engineering and InformaticsNational University of Ireland GalwayGalwayIreland
  2. 2.Department of Aerospace and Mechanical EngineeringUniversity of Notre DameNotre DameUSA

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