Research Output

A technique for in situ characterisation of nano-scale strains in a physiologically-representative whole joint loading model

  Measuring mechanical behaviour in hard and soft tissues to nanometre length scales is vital in deciphering healthy and pathologic function within the complex, multi-tissue system that comprises the mammalian diarthrodial joint. Imaging techniques to quantify dynamic changes across hierarchical scales in joint structure and deformation are currently constrained by sample treatment, size and scan time. Thus, knowledge of the joint’s biomechanical functionality in health, as well as its failure mechanisms in ageing and diseases such as osteoarthritis, remain incomplete. Here, we present a technique combining fast, low-dose, pink-beam synchrotron X-ray tomography with nanoprecision biomechanical loading to achieve ultra-high resolution tissue imaging of intact, untreated joints under physiologically representative conditions in situ, resolving displacements with better than 100 nm accuracy measured directly by digital volume correlation. We demonstrate how these advances can be used to correlate tissue structure at the cellular level to whole joint mechanical performance via studies in joints from young to aged normal and osteoarthritic mice. Our application of these novel techniques reveals that hierarchical changes in tissue structure and mechanical behaviour can be simultaneously visualised, thus enabling divergent strategies for adapting to joint loading to be explored for the first time. In addition, our technique demonstrates a potential for co-localisation of tissue strains to specific chondrocyte lacunar organisations within intact loaded joints and for significant exploration of the role of calcified cartilage stiffness in healthy and pathological joint biomechanical functionality.

  • Type:


  • Date:

    18 July 2019

  • Publication Status:


  • Library of Congress:

    R Medicine

  • Dewey Decimal Classification:

    612 Human physiology

  • Funders:

    Arthritis Research UK; Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council; BBSRC Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council


Madi, K., Staines, K., Bay, B., Javaheri, B., Geng, H., Bodey, A., …Lee, P. (in press). A technique for in situ characterisation of nano-scale strains in a physiologically-representative whole joint loading model. Nature Biomedical Engineering,



tissue imaging; diarthrodial joint; tissue structure; biomechanical functionality; joint loading

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