Tianjin Key Laboratory for Advanced Mechatronic System Design and Intelligent Control, School of Mechanical Engineering, Tianjin University of Technology, Tianjin, 300384, People's Republic of China. [Email]
Irreversible osteoporosis may occur in astronauts during long-term space flight. The flow field of tissue fluid in the lacunar-canalicular system (LCS) of osteon and the mechanical response of osteocytes to the flow field under different gravity fields were studied by numerical simulation. This study is expected to explain how the decrease in liquid transmission within microgravity can be a cause of osteoporosis in astronauts from the perspective of biomechanics using a fundamental research approach. A 3D axisymmetric fluid-solid coupling finite element model of an osteon with a two-stage pore structure (Haversian canals and lacunar-canalicular network) and osteocytes was established. The model compared the influence of differences in pulsating pressure of arterioles in Haversian canal, from 33 mmHg to 45 mmHg within a microgravity field (0 g), Earth's gravity field (1 g), and a high G gravitational fields (2-8 g). The liquid flow velocity in the LCS within a microgravity field was less than that within a normal gravitational field, and the flow velocity increased with gravitational acceleration. There was a significant liquid pressure gradient in the osteocytes within a normal and higher gravitational field compared with in microgravity. A reduction in the fluid flow velocity and fluid shear stress on osteocytes in different zones in microgravity compared with Earth's gravitational field. For these reasons, possibly causing a decrease in mechanical conduction and biochemical function, even cell death, leads to increased osteoclast activity, eventually causing the loss of a large quantity of bone. Graphical abstract A 3D axisymmetric fluid-solid coupling finite element model of an osteon with a two-stage pore structure was established. The model compared the influence of magnitudes of gravity on liquid transmission in LCS and mechanical response of osteocytes. The mean flow velocity of liquid in various layers (shallow, middle, and deep) increased linearly as acceleration due to gravity increased, and there was a significant liquid pressure gradient in osteocytes within a normal gravitational field compared with in microgravity. In microgravity environment, the osteocytes were unable to experience the pressure difference compared to that of Earth, possibly causing a decrease in mechanical conduction and biochemical function, even cell death, leading to increased osteoclast activity, eventually causing the loss of a large quantity of bone.