Bone, a Living Structure:
On Earth, In Space, and Back Again
April 20, 2012
Joyce H. Keyak, Ph.D.
UC Irvine, Departments of Radiological Sciences,
Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, and Biomedical Engineering
Principles of mechanical engineering provide a framework for evaluating all types of structures, including those in the human body. Bone is the most rigid structural member of the body, and its health is critical for a normal life. Unfortunately, with aging and disease, our bones may become weak or degrade in other ways. In this lecture, I will begin by providing an introduction to bone as a living, changing structure and will describe some engineering issues related to bone. I will then present a method for structural analysis of bone which uses CT scan images as the basis for creating finite element models of an individual's bone. This method is the latest and most powerful technique for evaluating the risk of hip fracture in the elderly. I will conclude by discussing the effects of long-duration spaceflight on the bones of astronauts.