Age-related bone loss, which is poorly characterized, is a major underlying cause of osteoporotic fractures in the elderly. In order to identify the morphological feature of age-related bone loss, we investigated sex and site (tibia, femur and vertebra) dependence of bone microstructure in aging hamsters from 3 to 24 months of age using micro-CT. In the proximal tibia and distal femur, trabecular bone volume (BV/TV), trabecular number (Tb.N), trabecular thickness (Tb.Th) and bone mineral density (BMD) increased to a maximum at 6 or 12 months and then declined progressively from 12 to 24 months of age. Trabecular separation (Tb.Sp), trabecular bone pattern factor (TBPf) and structure model index (SMI) increased with age. As compared with male hamsters, BV/TV and Tb.N were significantly lower in females at 18 and 24 months of age. Age-related decrease of trabecular BV/TV in the vertebral body was less than that of the femoral and tibial metaphyses. In the mid-femoral diaphysis, cortical bone area remained constant from 3 to 24 months of age. Cortical thickness decreased from 12 to 24 months and cortical BMD declined significantly from 18 to 24 months of age. These findings indicate that skeletal site and sex differences exist in hamster bone structure. Age-related bone changes in hamsters resemble those in humans. We conclude that hamster may be a useful model to study at least some aspects of bone loss during human aging.
Keywords: Aging; Bone structure; Hamster; Micro-CT; Three-dimensional microstructure