Breaking Down Bone Toughness: Multiscale and Cellular Contributors to Bone Fragility

Claire Acevedo, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

University of California, San Diego

Seminar Information

Seminar Date
December 1, 2023 - 2:00 PM

The FUNG Auditorium - PFBH



The prevention of fragility fractures, which are associated with aging, osteoporosis, and diabetes, has been a long-standing challenge in clinical practice. While the mechanisms of fracture and deformation in engineering materials are well understood, the same cannot be said for bone. Currently, the primary indicator of bone fracture risk is bone mass; however, this metric alone falls short in accurately predicting an individual's risk of fracture. Therefore, the field of bone fragility is now exploring other factors, such as bone quality, which involves investigating material, structural, and cellular changes associated with fragility diseases and how they impair bone fracture toughness. This pursuit requires a mechanical approach combined with biophysics and skeletal biology to expand our knowledge in biological sciences.

During this talk, I will demonstrate how we used multiscale experimental approaches, such as high-resolution and advanced x-ray radiation experiments, and novel in situ imaging techniques to reveal dynamic 3D mechanisms of bone across molecular to millimeter length scales. I will show that deficits in nanoscale collagen deformation are a key contributor to bone fragility in diabetes and aging. Finally, I will discuss the central role of osteocyte cells in maintaining bone composition, organization and function in response to damage and mechanical stress. By identifying mechanisms that weaken bone, we can pave the way for new diagnostic tools and therapeutic targets for managing bone fracture risk. 


Speaker Bio

Dr. Acevedo is a tenure-track Assistant Professor newly hired in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the University of California, San Diego. She holds a Ph.D. degree in Civil Engineering, specializing in Fracture Mechanics, from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland. After completing her doctoral degree, she pursued postdoctoral research at both the University of California, Berkeley in Materials Science and the University of California, San Francisco in Orthopaedic Surgery. Subsequently, she established her own research lab, the Fracture and Fatigue of Skeletal Tissues Lab, at the University of Utah ( Dr. Acevedo's research focuses on the mechanical behavior of skeletal tissues, biology, and experimental high-energy x-ray physics. Her expertise in these areas led her to secure recent funding through prestigious grants from the NSF CAREER and NIH R21.