An improved understanding of how local mechanical stimuli guide the fracture healing process has the potential to enhance clinical treatment of bone injury. Recent preclinical studies of bone defect in animal models have used cross-sectional data to examine this phenomenon indirectly. In this study, a direct time-lapsed imaging approach was used to investigate the local mechanical strains that precede the formation of mineralised tissue at the tissue scale. The goal was to test two hypotheses: 1) the local mechanical signal that precedes the onset of tissue mineralisation is higher in areas which mineralise, and 2) this local mechanical signal is independent of the magnitude of global mechanical loading of the tissue in the defect. Two groups of mice with femoral defects of length 0.85 mm (n = 10) and 1.45 mm (n = 9) were studied, allowing for distinct distributions of tissue scale strains in the defects. The regeneration and (re)modelling of mineralised tissue was observed weekly using in vivo micro-computed tomography (micro-CT), which served as a ground truth for resolving areas of mineralised tissue formation. The mechanical environment was determined using micro-finite element analysis (micro-FE) on baseline images. The formation of mineralised tissue showed strong association with areas of higher mechanical strain (area-under-the-curve: 0.91 ± 0.04, true positive rate: 0.85 ± 0.05) while surface based strains could correctly classify 43% of remodelling events. These findings support our hypotheses by showing a direct association between the local mechanical strains and the formation of mineralised tissue.
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