At the tissue level it is well established that the rate of remodeling is related to the degree of mineralization. However, it is unknown how long it takes for an individual bone structural unit (BSU) to become fully mineralized during secondary mineralization. Using synchrotron Fourier transform infrared microspectroscopy (FTIRM) we examined the time required for newly formed bone matrix to reach a physiological mineralization limit. Twenty-six, four-month old female New Zealand white rabbits were administered up to four different fluorochrome labels at specific time points to evaluate the chemical composition of labeled osteons from the tibial diaphysis that had mineralized for 1, 8, 18, 35, 70, 105, 140, 175, 210, 245, 280, 315, 350, and 385 days. Interstitial bone from 505 day old rabbits was used as a reference value for the physiological limit to which bone mineralizes. Using synchrotron FTIRM, area integrations were carried out on protein (Amide I: 1688–1623 cm− 1), carbonate (v₂CO₃2−: 905–825 cm− 1), and phosphate (v₄>PO₄>3−: 650–500 cm− 1) IR bands. IR spectral data are presented as ratios of phosphate/protein (overall matrix mineralization) and carbonate/protein. The rate of mineralization of osteonal bone proceeded rapidly between day 1 and 18, reaching 67% of interstitial bone levels. This was followed by a slower, more progressive accumulation of mineral up to day 350. By 350 days the rate of increase plateaued. The ratio of carbonate/protein also increased rapidly during the first 18 days, reaching 73% of interstitial bone levels. The ratio of carbonate/protein plateaued by day 315, reaching levels not significantly different to interstitial bone levels. In conclusion, our data demonstrate that bone accumulates mineral rapidly during the first 18 days (primary mineralization), followed by a more gradual increase in the accumulation of mineral (secondary mineralization) which we found to be completed in 350 days.
Keywords: Secondary mineralization; Primary mineralization; FTIRM; Cortical bone; Animal model; Carbonate; Phosphate