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Computational model for the cell-mechanical response of the osteocyte cytoskeleton based on self-stabilizing tensegrity structures
The mechanism by which mechanical stimulation on osteocytes results in biochemical signals that initiate the remodeling process inside living bone tissue is largely unknown. Even the type of stimulation acting on these cells is not yet clearly identified. However, the cytoskeleton of osteocytes is suggested to play a major role in the mechanosensory process due to the direct connection to the nucleus. In this paper, a computational approach to model and simulate the cell structure of osteocytes based on self-stabilizing tensegrity structures is suggested. The computational model of the cell consists of the major components with respect to mechanical aspects: the integrins that connect the cell with the extracellular bone matrix, and different types of protein fibers (microtubules and intermediate filaments) that form the cytoskeleton, the membrane-cytoskeleton (microfilaments), the nucleus and the centrosome. The proposed geometrical cell models represent the cell in its physiological environment which is necessary in order to give a statement on the cell behavior in vivo. Studies on the mechanical response of osteocytes after physiological loading and in particular the mechanical response of the nucleus show that the load acting on the nucleus is rising with increasing deformation applied to the integrins. © 2012 Springer-Verlag.