The mechanical properties of bone tissue are determined by composition as well as structural, microstructural and nanostructural organization. The aim of this study was to quantify the elastic properties of bone at the lamellar level and compare these properties among osteonal, interstitial and trabecular microstructures from the diaphysis and the neck of the human femur. A nanoindentation technique with a custom irrigation system was used for simultaneously measuring force and displacement of a diamond tip pressed 500 nm into the moist bone tissue. An isotropic elastic modulus was calculated from the unloading curve with an assumed Poisson ratio of 0.3, while hardness was defined as the maximal force divided by the corresponding contact area. The elastic moduli ranged from 6.9±4.3 GPa in trabecular tissue from the femoral neck of a 74 yr old female up to 25.0±4.3 GPa in interstitial tissue from the diaphyseal cortex of a 69 yr old female. The mean elastic modulus was found to be significantly influenced by the type of lamella (p<10−6) and by donor (p<10−6). The interaction between the type of lamella and the donor was also highly significant (p<10−6). Hardness followed a similar distribution as elastic modulus among types of lamellae and donor, but with lower statistical contrast. It is concluded that the nanostructure of bone tissue must differ substantially among lamellar types, anatomical sites and individuals and suggests that tissue heterogeneity is of potential importance in bone fragility and adaptation.
Keywords: Bone lamella; Elastic modulus; Femur; Hardness; Nanoindentation