Multi-scale mechanical and morphological characterisation of sintered porous magnesium-based scaffolds for bone regeneration in critical-sized defects

Roxane Bonithon, Alexander Peter Kao, Marta Peña Fernández, Joseph Nicholas Dunlop, Gordon William Blunn, Frank Witte, Gianluca Tozzi*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Magnesium (Mg) and its alloys are very promising degradable, osteoconductive and osteopromotive materials to be used as regenerative treatment for critical-sized bone defects. Under load-bearing conditions, Mg alloys must display sufficient morphological and mechanical resemblance to the native bone they are meant to replace to provide adequate support and enable initial bone bridging. In this study, unique highly open-porous Mg-based scaffolds were mechanically and morphologically characterised at different scales. In situ X-ray computed tomography (XCT) mechanics, digital volume correlation (DVC), electron microscopy and nanoindentation were combined to assess the influence of material properties on the apparent (macro) mechanics of the scaffold. The results showed that Mg exhibited a higher connected structure (38.4mm−3 and 6.2mm−3 for Mg and trabecular bone (Tb), respectively) and smaller spacing (245µm and 629µm for Mg and Tb, respectively) while keeping an overall appropriate porosity of 55% in the range of trabecular bone (30-80%). This fully connected and highly porous structure promoted lower local strain compared to the trabecular bone structure at material level (i.e. -22067 ± 8409µε and -40120 ± 18364µε at 6% compression for Mg and trabecular bone, respectively) and highly ductile mechanical behaviour at apparent level preventing premature scaffold failure. Furthermore, the Mg scaffolds exceeded the physiological strain of bone tissue generated in daily activities such as walking or running (500-2000µε) by one order of magnitude. The yield stress was also found to be close to trabecular bone (2.06MPa and 6.67MPa for Mg and Tb, respectively). Based on this evidence, the study highlights the overall biomechanical suitability of an innovative Mg-based scaffold design to be used as a treatment for bone critical-sized defects. Statement of significance: Bone regeneration remains a challenging field of research where different materials and solutions are investigated. Among the variety of treatments, biodegradable magnesium-based implants represent a very promising possibility. The novelty of this study is based on the characterisation of innovative magnesium-based implants whose structure and manufacturing have been optimised to enable the preservation of mechanical integrity and resemble bone microarchitecture. It is also based on a multi-scale approach by coupling high-resolution X-ray computed tomography (XCT), with in situ mechanics, digital volume correlation (DVC) as well as nano-indentation and electron-based microscopy imaging to define how degradable porous Mg-based implants fulfil morphological and mechanical requirements to be used as critical bone defects regeneration treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)338-352
Number of pages15
JournalActa Biomaterialia
Early online date6 Apr 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021


  • Bone regeneration
  • Digital volume correlation (DVC)
  • Electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD)
  • In situ mechanics
  • Magnesium alloys
  • Nanoindentation
  • Scanning electron microscopy (SEM)
  • X-ray computed tomography (XCT)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biomaterials
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Molecular Biology


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