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Finite element and deformation analyses predict pattern of bone failure in loaded zebrafish spines

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Article number0430
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the Royal Society Interface
Issue number160
DateAccepted/In press - 15 Oct 2019
DatePublished (current) - 6 Nov 2019


The spine is the central skeletal support structure in vertebrates consisting of repeated units of bone, the vertebrae, separated by intervertebral discs (IVDs) that enable the movement of the spine. Spinal pathologies such as idiopathic back pain, vertebral compression fractures and IVD failure affect millions of people worldwide. Animal models can help us to understand the disease process, and zebrafish are increasingly used as they are highly genetically tractable, their spines are axially loaded like humans, and they show similar pathologies to humans during ageing. However, biomechanical models for the zebrafish are largely lacking. Here, we describe the results of loading intact zebrafish spinal motion segments on a material testing stage within a micro-computed tomography machine. We show that vertebrae and their arches show predictable patterns of deformation prior to their ultimate failure, in a pattern dependent on their position within the segment. We further show using geometric morphometrics which regions of the vertebra deform the most during loading, and that finite-element models of the trunk subjected reflect the real patterns of deformation and strain seen during loading and can therefore be used as a predictive model for biomechanical performance.

    Research areas

  • Deformation, Finite element, Geometric morphometrics, Mechanics, Spine, Zebrafish

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    Licence: CC BY


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