Relations Between Bone Quantity, Microarchitecture, and Collagen Cross-links on Mechanics Following In Vivo Irradiation in Mice

Megan M. Pendleton, Shannon R. Emerzian, Saghi Sadoughi, Alfred Li, Jennifer W. Liu, Simon Y. Tang, Grace D. O'Connell, Jean D. Sibonga, Joshua S. Alwood, Tony M. Keaveny

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Humans are exposed to ionizing radiation via spaceflight or cancer radiotherapy, and exposure from radiotherapy is known to increase risk of skeletal fractures. Although irradiation can reduce trabecular bone mass, alter trabecular microarchitecture, and increase collagen cross-linking, the relative contributions of these effects to any loss of mechanical integrity remain unclear. To provide insight, while addressing both the monotonic strength and cyclic-loading fatigue life, we conducted total-body, acute, gamma-irradiation experiments on skeletally mature (17-week-old) C57BL/6J male mice (n = 84). Mice were administered doses of either 0 Gy (sham), 1 Gy (motivated by cumulative exposures from a Mars mission), or 5 Gy (motivated by clinical therapy regimens) with retrieval of the lumbar vertebrae at either a short-term (11-day) or long-term (12-week) time point after exposure. Micro-computed tomography was used to assess trabecular and cortical quantity and architecture, biochemical composition assays were used to assess collagen quality, and mechanical testing was performed to evaluate vertebral compressive strength and fatigue life. At 11 days post-exposure, 5 Gy irradiation significantly reduced trabecular mass (p < 0.001), altered microarchitecture (eg, connectivity density p < 0.001), and increased collagen cross-links (p < 0.001). Despite these changes, vertebral strength (p = 0.745) and fatigue life (p = 0.332) remained unaltered. At 12 weeks after 5 Gy exposure, the trends in trabecular bone persisted; in addition, regardless of irradiation, cortical thickness (p < 0.01) and fatigue life (p < 0.01) decreased. These results demonstrate that the highly significant effects of 5 Gy total-body irradiation on the trabecular bone morphology and collagen cross-links did not translate into detectable effects on vertebral mechanics. The only mechanical deficits observed were associated with aging. Together, these vertebral results suggest that for spaceflight, irradiation alone will likely not alter failure properties, and for radiotherapy, more investigations that include post-exposure time as a positive control and testing of both failure modalities are needed to determine the cause of increased fracture risk.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere10545
JournalJBMR Plus
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2021




Dive into the research topics of 'Relations Between Bone Quantity, Microarchitecture, and Collagen Cross-links on Mechanics Following In Vivo Irradiation in Mice'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this