A biomechanical comparison between human calvarial bone and a skull simulant considering the role of attached periosteum and dura mater
Purpose Current forensic analysis of blunt force trauma relies on the use of cadaveric or animal tissues, posing ethical and reproducibility concerns. Artificial substitutes may help overcome such issues. However, existing substitutes exhibit poor anatomic and mechanical biofidelity, especially in the choice of skull simulant material. Progress has been made in identifying materials that have similar mechanical properties to the human skull bone, with the potential to behave similarly in mechanical loading. Aims To compare the biomechanical properties of the human calvarial bone with an epoxy resin-based simulant material. Data collected was also used to analyse the effect of periosteal attachment on the mechanical properties of skull bone compared with that of the counterpart samples. Methods Fifty-six human skull bone specimens were prepared from two cadaveric heads. Half of these specimens were removed of periosteum and dura mater as the PR (periosteum removed) group, whereas periosteum was left attached in the PA (periosteum attached) group. Duplicates of the bone specimens were fabricated out of an epoxy resin and paired in corresponding PR and PA groups. The specimens were loaded under three-point bending tests until fracture with image-based deformation detection. Results Comparison of the epoxy resin and skull specimens yielded similarity for both the PR and PA groups, being closer to the PA group (bending modulus resin PR 2665 MPa vs. skull PR 1979 MPa, resin PA 3165 MPa vs. skull PA 3330 MPa; maximum force resin PR 574 N vs. skull PR 728 N, resin PA 580 N vs. skull PA 1034 N; strain at maximum force resin PR 2.7% vs. skull PR 5.1%, resin PA 2.3% vs. skull PA 3.5%, deflection at maximum force resin PR 0.5 mm vs. skull PR 0.8 mm, resin PA 0.5 mm vs. skull PA 1.0 mm). Bending strength was significantly lower in the resin groups (resin PR 43 MPa vs. skull PR 55 MPa, resin PA 44 MPa vs. skull PA 75 MPa). Moreover, the correlations of the mechanical data exhibited closer accordance of the PR group with the epoxy resin compared with the PA group with the epoxy resin. Conclusions The load-deformation properties of the epoxy resin samples assessed in this study fell within a closer range to the skull specimens with PR than with PA. Moreover, the values obtained for the resin fall within the reference range for skull tissues in the literature suggesting that the proposed epoxy resin may provide a usable artificial substitute for PA but does not totally represent the human skull in its complex anatomical structure.