Functional non-uniformity of periodontal ligaments tunes mechanobiological stimuli across soft- and hard-tissue interfaces

Jingxiao Zhong, Yo Shibata, Chi Wu, Chie Watanabe, Junning Chen, Keke Zheng, Jingrui Hu, Michael V. Swain, Qing Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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The bone-periodontal ligament-tooth (BPT) complex is a unique mechanosensing soft-/hard-tissue interface, which governs the most rapid bony homeostasis in the body responding to external loadings. While the correlation between such loading and alveolar bone remodelling has been widely recognised, it has remained challenging to investigate the transmitted mechanobiological stimuli across such embedded soft-/hard-tissue interfaces of the BPT complex. Here, we propose a framework combining three distinct bioengineering techniques (i, ii, and iii below) to elucidate the innate functional non-uniformity of the PDL in tuning mechanical stimuli to the surrounding alveolar bone. The biphasic PDL mechanical properties measured via nanoindentation, namely the elastic moduli of fibres and ground substance at the sub-tissue level (i), were used as the input parameters in an image-based constitutive modelling framework for finite element simulation (ii). In tandem with U-net deep learning, the Gaussian mixture method enabled the comparison of 5195 possible pseudo-microstructures versus the innate non-uniformity of the PDL (iii). We found that the balance between hydrostatic pressure in PDL and the strain energy in the alveolar bone was maintained within a specific physiological range. The innate PDL microstructure ensures the transduction of favourable mechanobiological stimuli, thereby governing alveolar bone homeostasis. Our outcomes expand current knowledge of the PDL's mechanobiological roles and the proposed framework can be adopted to a broad range of similar soft-/hard- tissue interfaces, which may impact future tissue engineering, regenerative medicine, and evaluating therapeutic strategies. STATEMENT OF SIGNIFICANCE: A combination of cutting-edge technologies, including dynamic nanomechanical testing, high-resolution image-based modelling and machine learning facilitated computing, was used to elucidate the association between the microstructural non-uniformity and biomechanical competence of periodontal ligaments (PDLs). The innate PDL fibre network regulates mechanobiological stimuli, which govern alveolar bone remodelling, in different tissues across the bone-PDL-tooth (BPT) interfaces. These mechanobiological stimuli within the BPT are tuned within a physiological range by the non-uniform microstructure of PDLs, ensuring functional tissue homeostasis. The proposed framework in this study is also applicable for investigating the structure-function relationship in broader types of fibrous soft-/hard- tissue interfaces.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)240-249
Number of pages10
JournalActa Biomaterialia
Early online date25 Aug 2023
Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2023


  • Nanoindentation
  • Image-based finite element analysis
  • Bone
  • U-net deep machine learning
  • Periodontal ligament


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