REVIEW ARTICLES: Mechanics Applied to Living Organisms

Structural Adaptation of Bones

[+] Author and Article Information
S. C. Cowin

Department of Mechanical Engineering, City College of the City University of New York, New York, NY 10031

Appl. Mech. Rev 43(5S), S126-S133 (May 01, 1990) doi:10.1115/1.3120791 History: Online April 30, 2009


Living bone tissue, like many other connective tissues, is a structural material that adapts its form and microstructure to changing environmental loading conditions. Bone tissue adapts not only its shape, but also its density and the details of its microstructure including its anisotropy. The anisotropy of bone is adapted in both its degree or strength and in the orientation of its principal axes of symmetry. These adaptive features of bone tissue are often referred to as aspects of Wolff’s law, although, strictly speaking, the term “Wolff’s law” applies only to the structural adaptation of spongy or trabecular bone. In this paper the composition, microstructure, mechanical properties and structurally adaptive features of bone are briefly reviewed. An algebraic formulation of Wolff’s law at remodeling equilibrium is described, and the nature of an evolutionary Wolff’s law is sketched.

Copyright © 1990 by American Society of Mechanical Engineers
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