A Discrete Shear Lag Model of the Mechanics of Hitchhiker Plants, and its Prospective Application to Tendon-To-Bone Repair


Tendon-To-Bone Repairs Often Fail When Sutures Pull through Tendon, Like a Wire through Cheese. Repair Strength is Maximized When Loads Are Balanced Equally among All Sutures, Relative to the Pullout Resistance of the Tendon and the Strength of the Sutures. This Problem of Balancing Loads Across Multiple, Discrete Attachment Sites Has Been Solved in Nature by Hitchhiker Plants that Proliferate by Adhering Relatively Stiff Fruit to Relatively Soft Fur and Fabrics through Arrays of Hooks. We, Therefore, Studied the Fruits of Such a Plant, Harpagonella Palmeri, and Developed a Discrete Shear Lag Analysis of the Force Distributions in H. Palmeri's Linear Arrays of Long, Slender Hooks of Varied Lengths and Spacing. Results Suggested that Strategies Were Used by the Plant to Distribute Loads, Including Variations in the Spacing and Stiffnesses of Hooks that Serve to Equalize Forces over Attachment Sites. When Applying These Models to Suturing Schemes for Surgical Reattachment of Tendon to Bone, Results Suggested that Strategies Exhibited by H. Palmeri Show Promise for Balancing Forces over Sutures, Potentially Doubling Repair Strength Relative to What Could Be Achieved with a Uniform Suture Distribution. Results Suggest a Potential Pathway for Strengthening Surgical Repairs, and More Broadly for Optimizing Fasteners for Bi-Material Attachment.


Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering


National Institutes of Health, Grant CMMI 1548571

Keywords and Phrases

Harpagonella Palmeri; Stress Analysis; Sutured Repair; Tendon-To-Bone Attachment

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

1471-2946; 1364-5021

Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version


File Type





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Publication Date

29 Mar 2023