Three-dimensional topology optimization model to simulate the external shapes of bone

Misaki Sakashita*, Shintaro Yamasaki, Kentaro Yaji, Atsushi Kawamoto, Shigeru Kondo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Elucidation of the mechanism by which the shape of bones is formed is essential for understanding vertebrate development. Bones support the body of vertebrates by withstanding external loads, such as those imposed by gravity and muscle tension. Many studies have reported that bone formation varies in response to external loads. An increased external load induces bone synthesis, whereas a decreased external load induces bone resorption. This relationship led to the hypothesis that bone shape adapts to external load. In fact, by simulating this relationship through topology optimization, the internal trabecular structure of bones can be successfully reproduced, thereby facilitating the study of bone diseases. In contrast, there have been few attempts to simulate the external structure of bones, which determines vertebrate morphology. However, the external shape of bones may be reproduced through topology optimization because cells of the same type form both the internal and external structures of bones. Here, we constructed a three-dimensional topology optimization model to attempt the reproduction of the external shape of teleost vertebrae. In teleosts, the internal structure of the vertebral bodies is invariable, exhibiting an hourglass shape, whereas the lateral structure supporting the internal structure differs among species. Based on the anatomical observations, we applied different external loads to the hourglass-shaped part. The simulations produced a variety of three-dimensional structures, some of which exhibited several structural features similar to those of actual teleost vertebrae. In addition, by adjusting the geometric parameters, such as the width of the hourglass shape, we reproduced the variation in the teleost vertebrae shapes. These results suggest that a simulation using topology optimization can successfully reproduce the external shapes of teleost vertebrae. By applying our topology optimization model to various bones of vertebrates, we can understand how the external shape of bones adapts to external loads.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1009043
JournalPLoS Computational Biology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Jun
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Modelling and Simulation
  • Ecology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics


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