A study of the relationship between mineral content and mechanical properties of turkey gastrocnemius tendon

Authors

  • Dr. William J. Landis,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Harvard Medical School and Children's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts
    • The Children's Hospital Enders Building, Room 284 300 Longwood Avenue Boston, MA 02115
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Joseph J. Librizzi,

    1. Departments of Pathology and Surgery, UMDNJ—Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Piscataway, New Jersey
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Michael G. Dunn,

    1. Departments of Pathology and Surgery, UMDNJ—Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Piscataway, New Jersey
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Frederick H. Silver

    1. Departments of Pathology and Surgery, UMDNJ—Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Piscataway, New Jersey
    Search for more papers by this author

Abstract

The vertebrate skeletal system undergoes adaptation in response to external forces, but the relation between the skeletal changes and such forces is not understood. In this context, the variation in the amount and location of calcification has been compared with changes in mechanical properties of the normally mineralizing turkey gastrocnemius tendon using ash weight measurements, X-ray radiography, and mechanical testing. Radiographic evidence from 12- to 17-week-old birds showed calcification in only portions of gastrocnemius tendons proximal to the tarsometatarsal joint. Mechanical testing of these dissected proximal regions demonstrated an increased ultimate stress and modulus and a decreased maximum strain that appeared to parallel calcification. Further, stress–strain curves of portions of uncalcified turkey gastrocnemius tendon were shaped similar to those of other typical unmineralized tendon curves while highly calcified tendons yielded curves resembling those of bone. The proximal portions of the gastrocnemius where mineralization begins were observed to have a decreased tendon cross-sectional area compared with distal portions which do not mineralize. Based on the resultant measures of mineral content and location and mechanical properties, it is hypothesized that increased calcification is a result of increased stresses at certain locations of the tendon, perhaps the consequence of the natural forces exerted by the large leg muscles of the bird into which the gastrocnemius inserts. More specifically, tendon calcification may be the result of stress-induced exposure of charged sites on the surfaces of collagen molecules, fibrils, or fibers so that deposition of mineral and subsequent mechanical reinforcement occur in the tissue. The concept of stress-induced calcification of avian tendon is found to be consistent with other examples of biological mineralization and supports the view that vertebrate calcification is an adaptive process mediated in part by the accommodation of natural or applied forces.

Ancillary