Hormone therapy (HT) drugs and bisphosphonates prevent osteoporosis by inhibiting osteoclastic bone resorption. However, the effects of osteoporosis and anti-resorptive drugs on the mechanical behavior of the bone tissue constituting individual trabeculae have not yet been quantified. In this study, we test the hypothesis that the mechanical properties of bone trabecular tissue will differ for normal, ovariectomized and drug-treated rat bones over the course of ageing.
Microtensile testing is carried on individual trabeculae from tibial bone of ovariectomized (OVX) rats, OVX rats treated with tibolone and placebo-treated controls. The method developed minimizes errors due to misalignment and stress concentrations at the grips. The local mineralization of single trabeculae is compared using micro-CT images calibrated for bone mineral content assessment.
Our results indicate that ovariectomy in rats increases the stiffness, yield strength, yield strain and ultimate stress of the mineralized tissue constituting trabecular bone relative to normal; we found significant differences (P < 0.05) at 14, 34 and 54 weeks of treatment. These increases are complemented by a significant increase in the mineral content at the tissue level, although overall bone mineral density and mass are reduced. With drug treatment, the properties remain at, or slightly below, the placebo-treated controls levels for 54 weeks. The higher bone strength in the OVX group may cause the trabecular architecture to adapt as seen during osteopenia/osteoporosis, or alternately it may compensate for loss of trabecular architecture. These findings suggest that, in addition to the effects of osteoporosis and subsequent treatment on bone architecture, there are also more subtle processes ongoing to alter bone strength at the tissue level.