Bending properties, porosity, and ash fraction of black bear (Ursus americanus) cortical bone are not compromised with aging despite annual periods of disuse

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In many species, including humans, disuse causes an imbalance in bone remodeling that leads to increased bone porosity as a result of increased bone resorption and decreased bone formation. However, black bears (Ursus americanus) may not develop disuse osteopenia, to the extent that other animals do, during long periods of disuse (i.e. hibernation) because they maintain osteoblastic bone formation during hibernation, even though bone resorption is increased during hibernation. Black bears may also have a mechanism to rapidly and completely recover the bone lost (by increased resorption during hibernation) during their remobilization period. Our findings suggest that cortical bone bending strength (211-328MPa), bending modulus (16.0-29.5MPa), fracture energy (0.0118-0.0205Jmm-2), porosity (2.3-7.1%), and ash fraction (0.638-0.672) are not compromised with age in black bears, despite annual periods of disuse. In fact, the ultimate strength (p=0.01), modulus (p=0.04), and ash fraction (p=0.03) of cortical bone were shown to significantly increase with age (2-14 yrs). Female bears give birth and nurse during hibernation; however, we found no significant (p> 0.16) differences between male and female bone properties. Other animals require remobilization periods 2-3 times longer than the immobilization period to recover the bone lost during disuse. Our findings support the idea that black bears, which hibernate 5-7 months annually, have evolved a biological mechanism to mitigate the adverse effects of disuse on bone porosity and mechanical behavior. © 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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Journal of Biomechanics